NOT A Death Sentence

Saturday’s NY Times had an article about an English woman who has multiple sclerosis (MS). Multiple Sclerosis was not the focus of the article. Assisted suicide was the focus. LINK  But the article reminded me that March 2 – 8, 2009 is National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. So I thought I’d spend some time writing about MS.


Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects the nervous system: the brain, spinal cord and the nerves that come from them. The nervous system is covered by the myelin sheath, which acts as a protection for the nerves and also speeds the conduction of electrical impulses. The nervous system sends messages from the brain to the muscles and organs and back again by using low level electrical impulses.


MS damages the myelin sheath. This causes the electrical impulses to move slower or to move in an abnormal way. The result may be symptoms such as


  • Visual disturbances.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Trouble with coordination and balance.
  • Sensations such as numbness, prickling, or “pins and needles”.
  • Thinking and memory problems.


Multiple Sclerosis generally begins in young adulthood, between 20 and 40. Women are more often affected than men. The cause of MS is unknown, but many researchers suspect that it is an auto-immune disease. An auto-immune disease is a disease in which the body, for an unknown reason, begins attacking itself.


Some people with MS experience only mild symptoms, while others have very severe symptoms.


There are four “types” of MS:

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS – symptoms come and go, sometimes leaving residual effects, sometime not. About 85% of people with MS have this type.
  • Primary Progressive MS – disability is progressive without remission. About 10% of people with MS have this type.
  • Secondary Progressive MS – at first symptoms come and go but then the course of the disease become progressive without real remissions.
  • Progressive Relapsing MS – disability progresses without remissions, but there are episodes of acute symptom increase. This is the least common type of MS.



There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, MS IS manageable. It is not a death sentence.

YouTube videos:

     The Face of MS

     Famous People Who Have MS



To find out more about MS see:



National Multiple Sclerosis Society


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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