The multiple sclerosis It is a neurological disease that constitutes one of the main causes of disability in young adults. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are about 2.8 million people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis worldwide and, in Spain, according to data from the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN), around 55,000 people suffer from it. Tomorrow, May 30, is the World Multiple Sclerosis Day.
“Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, autoimmune, inflammatory, demyelinating and degenerative disease of the central nervous system. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks myelin, a protective coating on neurons that, when affected, causes them to slow or stop. nerve impulses, causing the different symptoms of the disease”, explains Dr. Ana Belén Caminero, Coordinator of the Study Group of Demyelinating Diseases of the Spanish Society of Neurology. “Depending on the areas of the central nervous system that have been affected, the symptoms vary greatly from person to person. So almost any neurological symptom or sign can be part of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. However, mobility, vision, balance and coordination problems, as well as fatigue, pain and sensitivity disorders are usually the most common”, adds Caminero. And just like the symptoms, the course and severity of this disease can also be highly varied. In any case, in 85% of patients, multiple sclerosis comes in flare-upswhich are episodes of neurological deficit as a manifestation of the lesions that are taking place in the central nervous system.
Sclerosis is the second most common cause of disability
According to SEN estimates, in Spain, Around 2,500 people are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis each year.. The age of onset of the disease usually ranges between 20 and 40 years, which makes it the second most frequent cause of disability in Spanish young adults. And it is also, after epilepsy, the second most common neurological disease among Spanish youth.
In addition, multiple sclerosis is two to three times more common in women than in men, and its frequency is increasing. “According to the latest records, in the last five years, hThe number of patients with multiple sclerosis has increased by nearly 20%. It is true that both the improvement in diagnostic techniques and the increase in treatment options are involved behind this increase, but also, for reasons that are still unknown, because we are witnessing an ever increasing number of new cases in women and in the child population”, says Dr. Ana Belén Caminero.
And it is that the cause of multiple sclerosis is still not clear. It is believed that it originates in people genetically predisposed to exposure to certain environmental factors such as infections, lack of vitamin D, smoking… and probably to certain hormonal factors that make women twice as likely to develop this disease.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that significantly decreases the quality of life of those who suffer from it, especially if it is not treated. For this, an early diagnosis and an adequate follow-up of the patients can help the people with multiple sclerosis to control symptoms and improve their quality of life. In addition, adopting a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach, including pharmacological treatment, lifestyle modifications, complementary therapies, and psychological and social support, can also greatly benefit patients.
Raise awareness about this disease and improve the quality of life of patients
“In recent years there has been a real revolution in the management of multiple sclerosis and we currently have numerous treatments available that can modify the course of the disease, with immunomodulatory or immunosuppressive drugs, and symptomatic therapies that address the specific symptoms of the disease. Therefore, there are already many affected people who enjoy a good quality of life”, highlights Dr. Ana Belén Caminero.
The disability associated with multiple sclerosis It can manifest itself in different ways, depending on the symptoms and severity of the disease that each person experiences. The most common disabling factors are problems with mobility, muscle weakness, fatigue, pain, sphincter disorders, difficulties speaking or swallowing, vision and balance problems, and cognitive problems such as difficulty concentrating and memory problems. Furthermore, the disability associated with multiple sclerosis can vary over time and can be progressive in some cases as the disease progresses.
“In recent years, the multiple sclerosis treatment, but not only pharmacologically, also from the rehabilitation point of view”, comments Berta de Andrés, Coordinator of the Neurophysiotherapy Study Section of the Spanish Society of Neurology. “There are already quite a few studies that confirm that the different therapeutic modalities used in physiotherapy help to improve physical aspects such as mobility or muscle strength.” On the other hand, the uncertainty of the disease and all the symptoms associated with it negatively affect many patients who, in many cases, manifest disorders of ddepression and anxiety, with consequences and affectation at the social, family and work level. The prevalence of depression associated with multiple sclerosis is between 37%-54% and that of anxiety ranges between 12%-40%.
“Since 2009 we commemorate the World Multiple Sclerosis Day, with the aim of raising awareness about this disease and improving the quality of life of people who suffer from it. We trust that dates like today will help raise awareness about the challenges and difficulties faced by people with multiple sclerosis and encourage greater inclusion and support for them”, says Dr. Ana Belén Caminero. “On the other hand, we must not forget that, despite the progress of recent years, we are facing a disease that still presents several important challenges. Among them is improving the detection times of the disease, in order to start treatment as soon as possible and prevent the progression of disability, as well as improve research and development of new treatmentssince there is still no cure for multiple sclerosis and not all treatments are equally effective for all patients.