What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple Sclerosis (or MS for
short) is believed to be a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks
the central nervous system (CNS). The central nervous system consists of the
brain, optic nerves, and all the nerves in the spinal cord. In order for these
nerves to properly transfer the electrical signals to and from the brain that
allow us to move our muscles or feel pain, these nerves are coated with a
substance called “Myelin” which builds the “Myelin Sheath”.
The myelin sheath is a natural insulator made up of proteins and phospholipids,
a type of fatty acid. It is believed that in MS, the body’s immune system
(which is supposed to help fight off foreign substances like
viruses so we don’t get sick) malfunctions and starts attacking this myelin
coating around the nerves and maybe even the “oligodendrocyte” cells,
which are what actually 

produce the myelin in our bodies. 

Sound complicated? Let me make this a little
simpler. In this day and age we all have electronic devices that plug into the
wall, they run on electricity, we all know that right? Our bodies run on
electricity as well, so think of it like this; a light switch leads to a copper
wire, which leads to a light bulb. When we want to turn the light bulb on we
flip the light switch and electricity is sent from the switch to the light bulb
via the wire making the bulb turn on. Our brain is like the light switch, our
nerves are like the copper wire, and our muscles are like the light bulb. If we
want to turn our muscles on, we “flip the switch” in our brain which
sends an electrical signal across our nerves (the wire) to turn that muscle on
(the light bulb).

Now, let’s apply Multiple Sclerosis to this
analogy; If you stripped the rubber insulation off the copper wire would your
light bulb work properly? Probably not, well, not safely at
least! So in our analogy the wire represents our nerves but our nerves are not
just one solid piece of material just as the copper wire in our light bulb
analogy is not just a solid piece of copper. There are multiple parts to both
our 
nerves and electrical wires. With nerves, you have the actual nerve fiber
itself, which is covered in the

insulating myelin sheath much like our light
bulb’s copper wire is covered in an insulating rubber sheath. So just like the
light bulb won’t work properly after it’s wire’s rubber sheath has been
stripped away, your muscles won’t work properly after it’s nerve’s myelin
sheath has been stripped away.

Nerves control everything in
your body from lifting your arm, feeling a cool breeze against your skin,
knowing if and object is hot or cold, to feeling that you stubbed your
toe. Even things like maintaining your balance or using the restroom require
the proper functioning of nerves! So if the myelin in your central nervous
system is damaged, that would render yours nerves incapable of functioning
properly and this of course means that various parts of your body may
malfunction. Maybe you can’t move a leg as well; you go numb in certain areas,
or you loose you balance easily! There are many, many symptoms
of Multiple Sclerosis and not everyone experiences them all. It all depends
on where the myelin has been damaged in your central nervous
system, where the “rubber insulation” is missing along
your wires.

Last Updated; July 26th, 2014

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