Have you ever spent too much time in an awkward sitting position until your hip fell numbingly asleep? Or maybe you’ve experienced the painful, tightening sensation a blood pressure cuff makes when an overzealous nurse pumps it up too tightly.
Perhaps you’ve spent too much time outdoors on some frosty evening, chilling your feet into tingling, deadened appendages? Most people experience these feelings occasionally, and are perfectly healthy individuals with no sign of illness.
Magnify these bizarre sensations tenfold, and you will get a pretty good idea of what it feels like to have an impaired nervous system on a full-time basis. This unpleasant sensory sensation, known as paresthesias, is just one of the many symptoms that occur in the neurological disease, multiple sclerosis.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is characterized by multiple areas of damage and scarring (sclerosis) to the nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord. Although research has brought us closer to understanding the disease process, its cause is not yet fully known, nor is there a cure.
What we do know is that MS is not a contagious disease, nor is it considered genetic, although some recent studies suggest a familial predisposition. MS affects an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 Americans, with women nearly twice as likely to contract the disease as men. On average, the age of onset is between 20 to 40 years old, and geographically, the disease occurs more frequently in northern climates.
In MS, the nerve cells are under siege and the resultant fallout affects the entire body. This fallout can cause the affected person to exhibit a diverse number of seemingly unrelated symptoms.