What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Many of you have probably heard of Multiple Sclerosis before but how many of you actually know what it is? The reason there is often some confusion over what Multiple Sclerosis is, can be attributed to the fact that everyone reacts differently. To really understand this lets start at the beginning.

Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord. Together they are responsible for sending and receiving signals, much like a processing centre, which controls each function of the body.  One of the building blocks to the nervous system are neurons (a nerve cell). Unlike other cells the body, neurons can transmit information. There are several parts that make up a neuron but the important part to understand (in regards to Multiple Sclerosis) is myelin. The material that forms a layer around the axon (an elongated nerve fibre) is called the myelin sheath. Think of it like a cable, you have a long wire (the axon) that is covered by insulation (myelin sheath) transmitting electricity (signals) from one place to another.

neuron-ms

With Multiple Sclerosis, the immune system mistakes the myelin for a foreign body and attacks it. This causes damage to the myelin sheath and leaves the nerve fibre it was protecting exposed, either partially or completely. The damage left can distort, slow down or even prevent signals from passing through the cell, which is what causes the varied symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. In some cases the nerve fibre itself is damaged which is was causes the accumulation of disability for some MS sufferers.

Once you understand what MS is doing inside the body, you can see why everyone reacts differently. The nervous system is responsible for many functions, so different things will be disrupted and depending on the extent of the damage, the degree of the symptoms will vary. The affect can be physical, resulting in vision problems, balance problems and fatigue, for example. It can also affect your emotions, memory and general thinking. Some symptoms are more common then others but overall there is no set list of things to look out for. This is why it can be hard to diagnose MS and often takes a long time to do so.

There is no known cause for Multiple Sclerosis and no known cure. This is why research is so important and why Gamers Giving Back hosts the MS Toga party event. By helping raise awareness and encouraging people to donate to the MS Society, we hope to contribute to further research and help support those currently suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.