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updated: 4/18/2013 11:01 AM

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

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  • Dr. George Katsamakis, MD

    Dr. George Katsamakis, MD

Dr. George Katsamakis, MD

Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Multiple Sclerosis is believed to be an autoimmune disease. This means the body's immune system, which normally targets abnormal cells, mistakenly destroys normal tissues. In the case of Multiple Sclerosis, cells of the brain and spinal cord are attacked by the immune system.

It is now estimated that nearly 500,000 people in the United States are affected by Multiple Sclerosis. Most are diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40. The initial symptoms can be mild and often ignored. Often times this delays the diagnosis until a later time when the symptoms become more apparent and medical evaluation is undertaken.

Because MS can affect any part of the central nervous system, symptoms are variable and commonly include:

• Muscle weakness

• Fatigue

• Tingling/numbness

• Loss of balance

• Blurred/double vision

• Eye pain

Other symptoms may also occur such as muscle stiffness, heat sensitivity, pain, difficulty thinking clearly, and difficulty controlling bladder and bowel.

It can be difficult to diagnose someone with MS for various reasons such as:

• Large number of possible symptoms

• Each case is different

• Symptoms can come and go spontaneously

• Many symptoms are commonly seen in other diseases

In addition to a thorough medical history and neurological exam, the most sensitive testing for MS is an MRI of the brain and spinal cord. Lumbar puncture to analyze the spinal fluid and serologic tests to rule out mimics of MS are also often considered.

Although the exact cause of MS is still unknown, there may be a many factors that influence involving genetics, environmental influences, and an infectious trigger such as a virus.

Unfortunately MS is not curable. However, since 1993 there have been 10 medications approved by the FDA that have been effective at slowing down the process of the disease.

If you have any symptoms, questions, or concerns make an appointment with your neurologist. They will be able to answer any questions you may have.

Dr. George Katsamakis, MD, is a neurologist at Northwest Neurology Ltd. the largest independently managed neurology practice in the Chicago area and an affiliation of Advocate Health Care. He also is the director of The Northwest Neurology Multiple Sclerosis Center. Each of the Northwest Neurology physicians maintains interest and expertise in all areas of neurology and has additional subspecialty interests. Dr. Katsamakis graduated from University Rush Medical College and has 19 years of experience. For appointments call (847) 882-6604.