Multiple sclerosis: insights into diagnosis and research
Multiple sclerosis is the most common central nervous system disorder. According to the latest calculations by the Federal Insurance Office, up to 200,000 people are affected in Germany - almost twice as many as previously estimated. The disease is difficult to recognize and is still considered incurable. Reason enough to take a closer look at the subject of multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis: “The disease of 1,000 faces” Multiple sclerosis is called the “disease of 1,000 faces” for a reason. The symptoms associated with it are diverse: "The range extends from numbness to visual and coordination disorders, connective difficulties, bladder disorders, infinite exhaustion (fatigue) to antaxia, tremors, movement disorders and paralysis", explains the managing director of the multiple sclerosis company Dorothea Pitschnau -Michel in an interview with Mediaplanet. "Multiple sclerosis is extremely complex and varied," she added later. However, research work in recent years has shown enormous advances in treatment.
Prof. Heinz Wiendl is also positive about the future. In an interview, the head of the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital of Münster reports on the research success of the past few years, "both with regard to the investigation of factors causing the disease and the therapies". Rather, the biggest problem is the early diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. It is important to consult an appropriate expert as soon as possible if there are symptoms. "At the latest when it comes to decisions about a therapy, you should insist, if possible, on being treated by a proven MS specialist or in a treatment center."
Consequences of the disease from multiple sclerosis The disease of the central nervous system can be attributed to the penetration of immune cells into the brain or the destruction of protective sheaths of the nerve fibers initiated by the immune cells. The result is all kinds of neurological deficiency symptoms, and depression is not uncommon. However, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis often only show up for a limited period of time and subside over the course of weeks. "Depending on the severity and duration of the relapse, the symptoms can disappear completely or leave a disability," writes the non-profit Hertie Foundation on the occasion of World MS Day.
Multiple sclerosis is most common between the ages of 20 and 40, but women are affected twice as often as men. The causes of the nerve disease are largely unclear. In any case, multiple sclerosis is not a classic hereditary disease, explains the Hertie Foundation. "There is probably a certain disposition that, together with external factors such as viral infections, causes the disease." The likelihood of developing multiple sclerosis near the equator is less likely than in the southern or northern latitudes.
MS research makes great progress in therapy Early diagnosis of the disease is particularly important for Prof. Ralf Gold, he explains in an interview with Mediaplanet. Like Wiendl, he sees great opportunities for those affected after a quick diagnosis. "Patients who are diagnosed with the disease today have a good chance of growing old in good shape," he explains optimistically. Although the resident colleagues are sensitized to the symptoms of the disease, those affected should "always seek a second opinion". If the indications are clear, appropriate treatment must be initiated quickly. This has the greatest influence especially in the early phase of the disease. "This is where the anti-inflammatory therapies currently available on the market can work most effectively," explains Gold.
This year, new drugs are likely to come onto the market that are more effective in combating multiple sclerosis, explains Dr. Siegried Throm, managing director for research, development and innovation of the association of research-based pharmaceutical companies. Individual medications could already reduce the relapse frequency of suffering patients by around a third. However, this is not enough for researchers in companies and universities: For example, scientists at the Ruhr University Bochum have determined that fumaric acid esters are effective against multiple sclerosis. So far, this active ingredient has mainly been used against psoriasis.
"Currently, four new drugs have made it through the approval process, and three more are in the final tests," says Throm. "It will be a challenge for doctors in practice to clarify which patient is the best for each patient." However, there are many indications that decisive and early action is the most successful. In this respect, Thom also joins Gold and Wiendl: A quick diagnosis is extremely important for those affected. Education in the form of a World MS Day seems the right approach.
How can patients with multiple sclerosis live? Completely apart from the medical background, the specialist publication from Mediaplanet also sheds light on how to deal with nervous diseases. A recent survey has shown that "for many affected people, the support of friends, colleagues and employers is essential". Basically, "more knowledge of the illness would help in public." Participation in society through exercise, play and sport is also important, writes Mediaplanet. Because "in the end, regular training also improves the immune system and helps prevent infections." This also shows the story of Andreas Beseler, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 20 years ago.
In an interview, Beseler reports how he started living with the disease. "After the diagnosis it went downhill very quickly." After a short time he was no longer able to walk, he felt trapped in his own body. Because a friend took him to the swimming pool, learned to walk there in the flow channel for the second time in his life, and later started cycling, his life improved. He had to fight a lot at the beginning, overcome hurdles and put up with mistakes. Now, however, "he wants to encourage other people with MS" and "ride his racing bike through the Canadian Rockies, from Whitehorse to Vancouver." With his Rad-statt-Rollstuhl.de project, he wants to donate to the Nathalie Collect the Todenhöfer Foundation, which works for people with MS in need. (lb)
World MS Day: mistakes about multiple sclerosis