Let’s talk about multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system where the immune system attacks myelin, the substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers. Damage to the myelin causes distortion or interruption of the nerve impulses traveling to the brain and spinal cord. Even with this description of MS, it is still tricky to comprehend what MS really is.
Michelle Kuczma, D.O., is with Sentara Neurology Specialists on the campus of Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach. Dr. Kuczma also serves as the director of the Sentara Multiple Sclerosis Program.
Here, she answers a few questions about multiple sclerosis and treatment options.
Who gets MS?
The cause of MS has not yet been identified, but is felt to have an immune mediated component, genetic factors and a possible environmental trigger. MS is the leading cause of disability in young adults in the United States, not related to trauma. It is a life-long disease with the presenting symptoms typically occurring in patients between the ages 20 - 40 years old. It is also more common in female patients.
What are the typical symptoms of MS?
MS is a highly variable disease, which at times makes its diagnosis a challenge. Presenting symptoms range from muscle weakness and numbness to vision loss and balance issues.
Are there different forms of MS?
There are currently four different forms of MS. The most common is relapsing remitting MS where patients have symptoms, such as weakness or numbness, for a period of time that will then improve to a new baseline.
Beyond medication, what are other treatment options for patients suffering with MS?
Since MS is such a variable disease, symptoms that occur for one patient may not occur for another. A common symptom that MS patients face is weakness. One of the most important treatment strategies in MS is to encourage mobility. Physical therapy is prescribed for this reason, to keep patients active. This is also achieved with encouragement of exercise and stretching programs.
It seems you are starting a support group for patients who suffer with MS. What motivated you to start this group?
By starting a support group at Sentara, my hope is to continue to educate patients and family members about the disease process. By being embraced by others dealing with similar struggles, I hope that patients will be empowered to continue to live the lives that they want, despite their possible limitations.
What would you like to accomplish in this group? Goals you may have?
Goals for the support group include having an environment for the MS community in the Tidewater area to voice their concerns. I hope the group can reach anyone dealing with MS, whether as a patient, a friend or a family member, so that the questions they have concerning MS can be addressed.
Want to learn more about the Multiple Sclerosis Support Group? Call 757-507-0604 or visit the Multiple Sclerosis Support Group web page.