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Opinions of Thursday, 19 April 2018

Columnist: Pharma Research GH Team

Multiple Sclerosis; A lesser known evil

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I woke up this morning feeling very refreshed. I managed to do a forty-five-minute work-out, prepared breakfast, packed my lunch and got ready for work in a very excited mood. I got to work, got a few hugs from my colleagues to begin yet another busy day.

These are simply routines we may never take a moment to appreciate. Sadly, however, there are over 2.3 million people worldwide who are unable to go through their daily routines independently and without going through some pain, agony and anguish, because some of the covering around their nerves of the central nervous system is being destroyed by their body’s own immune system- a condition known as Multiple sclerosis (MS).

Last month was MS awareness month. About two weeks into the month, I attended a fun event with family and friends at one of my uncle’s place. One unyielding child (who I perceived wanted to embarrass me publicly) approached me and asked me about Multiple sclerosis.

Immediately, a look of horror spread across my face and I quickly bent down towards her and attempted to encourage her on to go play with the other kids. (Looking back now I should have realized it was a futile attempt). Actually, that gesture was a mere inadvertent admission to the fact that MS is a lesser known evil. Perhaps we should call it ‘the neglected neurological disease’.

Without even batting a lash, this curious child insisted to know, because she had been told I was a health professional. Moreover, it was an assignment she was given from school. I was angry at her teachers for teaching our children too much! Hoh! This was a primary five pupil, is MS not too huge for her? I thought to myself.

My brain was all foggy and interestingly, when I opened my mouth to respond, nothing came out! By this time, she had offered me a seat so I could take my time to explain to her. So I started:

Me: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease where the body's own immune system fights your own nervous system especially the brain, spinal cord and muscles. It is among the leading causes of non-traumatic neurologic disability in young adults.

At this point, I could see the apprehension and respect on her face. I couldn’t hide my wide smile.

Shirley: Uncle take it easy, please! I continued, undaunted;

Me: this disease impacts, that is, affects each person in a unique way. It’s often called a designer or boutique disease because no two people living with the illness have exactly the same presentation of symptoms.

Me: Ok so give me a summary of what I have said so far before we go on. I then grab my phone to quickly do some revision. No! to do some learning actually. Oops, my network failed me miserably. Google wasn’t accessible.

Shirley: she gives a good account and asks, uncle please what causes it?

Me: Although scientists are not sure of the exact cause of MS, it's definitely not contagious. (the best answer to give when you don’t know something right? You always put the blame on scientist)

That notwithstanding, it is believed that it involves an interplay between genetic susceptibility and certain environmental triggers such as low levels of Vitamin D and some viral infections.

Shirley: Uncle how do I get enough Vitamin D?

Me: By eating powdered milk… oooh, my God, that was sincerely a spontaneous answer. I debunked that by saying’ “Shirley that's your homework but here are some clues….

The sun rays are shining on us through the gap in the window right? And I'm told you like fish and eggs, right? Good, so go find the rest.

Shirley: so please how do I know I do not have MS?

Me: Only medical professionals can do accurate diagnosis based on clinical presentation and findings after series of tests. You know, diagnosis can easily be missed because the symptoms vary from patient to patient and the symptoms may are not unique to MS.

However, difficulty in walking is probably the best known symptom, but visual changes are often the first to occur then severe fatigue. The most common form of MS has periods of relapse followed by periods of recovery. However, with time, the disability progresses and worsens.

Shirley: but how does that occur?

Me: so basically, there is a plague that is formed around the brain which blocks signals from the brain to other parts of the body.

But take note of this my dear, the risk of one developing MS greatly increases the further one lives from the equator.

Shirley: uncle please how is it treated?

Me: Presently, there is no cure for MS. There are many treatments available for the multitude of symptoms. Scientists are working on new treatments that would not only be able to slow or stop the progression of MS, but to actually reverse its insidious damage.

Shirley: uncle last one…. Please, can I get MS?

Me: MS can strike at any age, but it is most common between the ages of 20 to 40.

The diagnosis may be easily and quickly established in some cases, but since it mimics many other conditions, most times establishing the diagnosis is a lengthy process and takes some time.

Shirley: Thank you, uncle. You are the best! These kind words from the young champ reechoed in my heart as she ran happily to her mum. But…, I was reading from a poster hanged in the living room... My uncle is a doctor and neurosurgery is his speciality...

Bye, for now, let me go with my shameful act...hope you learnt something at least. Multiple sclerosis can affect anyone. Get the facts now and offer help when you can

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