The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS), which is responsible for coordinating all motor functions and internal organic processes, as well as integrating all external and internal stimuli. It works according to the principle of a control center that conducts electric impulses over nerve fibers. The nerve fibers are sheathed in an insulating layer.
This insulating layer is mainly composed of a white fatty substance called myelin. In people with multiple sclerosis (MS), this insulating layer is irreversibly damaged due to a defensive reaction of the immune system. This means that individual impulses are slowed down or can no longer be transmitted.
Around 400,000 people in the United States suffer from MS, which often does not occur until the age of 20 to 40. MS is at least two to three times more common in women than in men, suggesting that hormones may also play a significant role in determining the susceptibility to MS.
MS can cause many different neurological symptoms. These include impaired vision (e.g. seeing double), impaired bladder function, spastic paralysis of the limbs, fatigue, and disruptions of fine motor skills. These symptoms frequently occur in stages, which can be caused by physical or emotional stress or by infections. Symptoms may vary in frequency and intensity.
MS is classified into various disorders:
- Relapsing-remitting MS predominates initially (approx. 85% to 90%): One or more neurological symptoms occur for a short time only; i.e., they are alleviated almost entirely after just a few days.
- Around 30% to 40% of patients with an initially relapsing-remitting course of the disease develop increasingly severe impairments over a period of 10 to 15 years. In this case, it is referred to as a secondary chronic-progressive course of the disease.
- In 10% to 15% of the patients, the illness begins directly with the primary chronic-progressive form. In these cases, the neurological symptoms that develop do not go away again. But this is relatively rare. Mixed forms of these basic versions of the disease occur as well.
The causes of MS have not been determined to date. However, it has been established that specific defense cells, which are normally used by the body's immune system to respond to invading pathogens, are incorrectly programmed with this illness. They combat the body's own structures instead of foreign ones (namely the myelin of the myelin sheath and myelin-based proteins).
Numerous theories on the origins of MS have been discussed and corresponding studies conducted. There appear to be links to a genetic predisposition and the role of the Epstein-Barr virus. The herpes virus HHV-6 has been examined intensively as well. At this point, it is reasonable to assume that the disease is caused by a host of factors.
A thorough medical history, neurological exam, and other laboratory tests help physicians rule out other diseases and confirm an MS diagnosis.
If the history confirms the suspicion of MS, clinical tests provide further information. They examine the patient's motor skills, coordination, reflexes, vision and strength in detail. This makes it possible to determine the extent to which neurological functions are damaged and what areas of the brain are affected. The conductivity of the nerve fibers can also be determined in electro-physiological tests.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to visualize the inflamed areas of the CNS. Lumbar puncture is another examination method; the patient's spinal canal is punctured between two lumbar vertebrae so that cerebrospinal fluid can be extracted.
Therapy to treat the causes of MS does not exist at this time. Moderate participation in sports is recommended with nearly all versions. When patients with MS suffer from spasticity, regular physical therapy and/or the use of medical devices such as orthoses is recommended. The treatment may also be supplemented by the administration of medications.
The products below are designed to help manage mobility issues that arise as a result of MS. Whether a product is suitable for you and whether you are capable of exploiting its full functionality depends on many different factors. Your physical condition, fitness, and a detailed medical examination are all considerations. Your doctor or orthotist will decide which product would be the most suitable for you. We are happy to support you.