Recently, it was revealed that Jack Osbourne, the son of legendary rocker Ozzy and TV celebrity Sharon, has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). And, as was the case with 1950s and 60s teen idol and once popular Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, Osbourne’s public sharing of his plight has brought new attention and awareness to this mysterious neurological disease.
MS affects the ability of nerve cells to communicate well with each other. Inflammation damages the myelin sheaths that insulate neurons, creating multiple lesions along the axons of these neurons, mainly in the brain and spinal cord. Most medical scientists conceptualize MS as one of the autoimmune diseases. These are diseases in which one’s own immune system for unknown reasons attacks healthy cell components just as it would an invading entity. But the exact cause of the disease is unknown, and to date, there is no cure per se. Hereditary factors are thought to play a role, with various gene mutations thought to intensify risk, but monozygotic twin studies demonstrate that the disease is not strictly genetically-based. Certain environmental factors, such as insufficient exposure to sunlight (essential for Vitamin D production), are also thought to play a role, as well as various types of trauma, including viral or bacterial infections.
The challenge of living with MS varies considerably, based on the form of the disease someone has contracted and the degree of positive response they might have to the available treatments. Although classifications of the sub-types of the disease vary, the two major forms of MS are the progressively worsening and debilitating variety and the type in which periods of relative symptom freedom are interspersed with varying degrees and intensity of relapse. Most folks receiving treatment can expect to endure with the disease, with average life expectancy being 5-10 years less than the non-affected population.
MS is also one of those diseases that’s not so easy to diagnose correctly at first. Symptoms can vary both in type and intensity, although in Jack Osbourne’s case, there was a significant red flag in the fact that he suddenly found himself unable to see well and had lost about 80 percent of the vision in his right eye. In an interview given to People magazine, Jack reported that since beginning a treatment regimen of medication and dietary reform, he has regained much of his sight, an experience not all that uncommon for some MS sufferers.
Almost any neurological malfunction can signal the presence of MS. Some of the more common neurological complaints associated with the disease include muscle weakness, problems moving the arms or legs, balance and coordination difficulty, vision problems, problems with sensation (numbness or tingling), tremors, unusual fatigue, chronic pain, difficulty chewing or swallowing, slurred or difficult speech, bowel or bladder irregularities, depression, anxiety, and cognitive problems. Because so many of these symptoms are also associated with other conditions, MS is often initially mistaken for other diseases.
Several medications are now used to treat MS, several of which act to modify the normal actions of the immune system. Which medication or combination of medications is likely to be the most effective largely depends on the type of MS the person has and other factors. Generally, treatment involves a two-pronged attack on the illness, targeting both the progression of disease and modulating the intensity of symptoms. Various adjunctive therapies are also often helpful, including several physical and rehabilitative therapies, dietary and lifestyle modifications, and the use of assistive devices.
Several organizations have dedicated themselves to providing information and various forms of support to MS victims and their families. Some of these organizations are also in the forefront of spurring needed research. One dedicated to improving the quality of life for MS sufferers is the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. You can find out more about MS and learn how you can be of help to those that suffer from it by visiting their website at www.msassociation.org.
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by