Alright, for over a year I have been trying to describe this visual symptom that is making my life so difficult but I have never known just how to put it into words. This symptom is my worst Multiple Sclerosis symptom and I do not see it going away anytime soon so I need to really explain what it is instead of shifting between “visual issues”, “vertigo” or whatever else I have been using. I need one term to explain what I am talking about and I am settling on “oscillopsia” since that is what my neurologist says it is and that is what everything I read seems to point to.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is believed to be an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the Myelin Sheath and the cells that actually produce Myelin (Oligodendrocytes). The immune system is ordinarily supposed to protect our body from disease but in the case of an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system attacks itself. The Myelin Sheath is a layer of fat that helps insulate nerve fibers (think of an electrical cord; rubber insulation wrapped around copper wire) allowing electrical signals to travel throughout the central nervous system (CNS) which consists of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. This allows us to move our bodies, sense the world around us and even have thoughts. When myelin is damaged these signals cannot travel properly and the body stops working the way it should.
An LP (Lumbar Puncture; AKA Spinal Tap) is a procedure in which a needle is placed between two vertebrae of the lumbar (lower back) area of the spine to extract cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a clear liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and is usually extracted for diagnostic purposes, for example, diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis (MS) by looking for myelin proteins in the CSF. MS attacks the myelin around nerves which causes pieces of myelin to break away into the cerebrospinal fluid around the brain and spinal cord.
What is Spacticity? Spasticity is the feeling of tight muscles, usually in the legs but it can affect any part of the body. It is considered an increase in muscle tone (muscle tightness) and there are two types of spasticity that are common among . Flexor; involves the hamstrings in the upper legs and the hip flexors (muscles at the top of the upper thigh). Extensor; involves the quadriceps and adductors (muscle on the front and inside of upper leg).
Spasticity can cause painful spasms, lower back pain and joint pain. It can also affect your gate (the form of how you walk) because if your legs are stiff and rigid then you probably will not be able to take a simple step the way you are supposed to be able to. When muscles are spastic, everything obviously can feel rigid or mechanical and some people may not be able to even bend their limbs at all! Imagine waking up and feeling like you could only move as much as a wooden sketch mannequin; that is kind of what spasticity feels like to me. Most people with MS who complain about spasticity (in their legs) say it feels like they are “walking on stilts” and I would have to agree.