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Genetic Predisposition Testing for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often debilitating disease that strikes the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. It is an inflammatory disease wherein the fatty myelin sheaths covering the axons of the brain and spinal cord are damaged.

About MS

In MS, the body’s immune system strikes and damages the myelin. The axons can no longer effectively transmit communication signals when the myelin is damaged. Multiple sclerosis affects people from all parts of the world and tends to arise between the ages of 20 and 40 and it is twice as common in women as it is in men.

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Symptoms of MS usually appear in episodes of worsening (called relapses, exacerbations, bouts, attacks, or “flare-ups”), gradually progressive deterioration of neurologic function, Multiple sclerosis relapses are often unpredictable, occurring without warning. Relapses occur more commonly during summer and spring. Viral infections such as the common cold, gastroenteritis or influenza increase the risk of relapse. An attack may also be triggered by stress and pregnancy influences the vulnerability to relapse.

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary widely, depending on the location of affected nerve fibres. Multiple sclerosis signs and symptoms may include:

  • Numbness, loss of sensitivity, tingling or weakness in one or more limbs, which typically occurs on one side of your body at a time or the bottom half of your body.
  • Difficulties with coordination and balance (ataxia)
  • Muscle weakness, clonus, muscle spasms or difficulty in moving
  • Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement (optic neuritis).
  • Double vision or blurring of vision
  • Tingling or pain in parts of your body
  • Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain head movements
  • Problems in speech (dysarthria)) or swallowing(dysphagia)
  • Bladder and bowel difficulties
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Cognitive impairment of various degrees
  • Emotional symptoms of depression or unstable mood

Most people with multiple sclerosis, particularly in the beginning stages of the disease, experience relapses of symptoms, which are followed by periods of complete or partial remission. Signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis often are triggered or worsened by an increase in body temperature.

Causes of multiple sclerosis

The exact causes of MS are not known. However it is believed that the onset of this disease is likely a result of some combination of genetic and environmental factors as well as exposure to infectious diseases. It has been established that the risk of multiple sclerosis is higher for people who have a family history of the disease. A number of specific genes have also been linked with MS.

A variety of viruses have also been linked to the onset of multiple sclerosis including human herpes virus-6, measles, canine distemper, Chlamydia pneumonia, and in particular, Epstein-Barr virus, the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis.

Generally, the disease is mild, but in some cases, people may lose the ability to write, speak or walk. There is no known cure for MS, however the right medications may slow it down and alleviate or control the symptoms.