Multiple sclerosis or MS is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, resulting in loss of muscle control, vision, balance, and sensation (such as numbness). With MS, the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged by one’s own immune system. Thus, the condition is called an autoimmune disease.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the condition affects approximately 400,000 Americans and is, with the exception of trauma, the most frequent cause of neurological disability beginning in early to middle adulthood.
In MS, the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, the two components of the central nervous system. Other autoimmune diseases include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. MS gets its name from the buildup of scar tissue (sclerosis) in the brain and/or spinal cord that leads to breakdown in breakdown of communication throughout the brain and spinal causing the symptoms of MS. The types of symptoms, severity of symptoms, and the course of MS vary widely, partly due to the location of the scar tissue and the extent of demyelination.
Management of the signs and symptoms of MS requires a team effort involving multiple caregivers, healthcare professionals, the patient and their caregivers, and social supports. Many of the symptoms of MS can be addressed through education on the subjects of energy conservation, provision of appropriate exercise regimens and appropriate compensatory strategies and adaptive equipment. For the older adult, because fatigue, depression, sleep disturbance and deconditioning are interrelated, an appropriate exercise program is critically important in rehabilitation.
T Kuaffman, J Barr, M Moran; Geriatric Rehabilitation Manual 2nd Edition, 2007