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Multiple Sclerosis

06 Mar 2024

By: Sheryl Tay

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is characterized by the immune system mistakenly attacking the protective covering of nerve fibers, known as myelin, in the central nervous system. Myelin acts like insulation around electrical wires, allowing nerve impulses to travel quickly and efficiently. When myelin is damaged or destroyed, the transmission of these impulses is disrupted, disrupting the communication between the brain and the rest of the body, leading to a wide range of sensory, motor and cognitive problems. When the myelin is damaged, it leaves behind scar tissue which is known as plaques or sclera. Immune system will conduct repairs to myelin after an attack, however, repeated immune attacks can prevent the proper repair of the myelin, and in some cases, cause damage to the nerve cells themselves, resulting in permanent injury to the brain and spinal cord.

Risk factors of MS

Causes of MS are unknown, however are usually linked to genetic and environmental factors 

  1. Sex. Women are 2-3 times more likely as compared to men to suffer from relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis.

  2. Genes. It has been found that individuals with the gene HLA-DR2 has been associated with Multiple Sclerosis susceptibility.

  3. Vitamin D deficiency. Having low levels of vitamin D and low exposure to sunlight is associated with a greater risk of Multiple Sclerosis.

  4. Certain infections. It has been suggested that certain infections have been linked to MS. Such as Epstein-Barr virus might trigger the immune system, leading to MS in some people.

  5. Smoking. Individuals who smoke are more likely to develop Multiple Sclerosis compared to individuals who do not.

Symptoms

Symptoms are dependent on which part of the Central Nervous System is damaged by the condition:

  1. Losing vision in one eye, pain when moving eyes, double vision

  2. Numbness or tingling in different parts of the body

  3. Balance issues

  4. Problems controlling the bladder

  5. Muscle stiffness and spasms

  6. Fatigue

 

Depending on the type of MS, symptoms may come and go in phases or get steadily worse over time.

Types of MS:​

There are several different types of MS, and the course of the disease can vary widely among individuals. The main types include:

  1. Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS): This is the most common form of MS, characterized by periods of relapse followed by periods of partial or complete recovery. With every relapse, follows with the exacerbation of disability. 
  2. Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS): Describes the transition from relapsing-remitting phase to a  steady progression of disability.
  3. Primary Progressive MS (PPMS): Describes a gradual and steady progression of symptoms without distinct relapses.

Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS): This is a less common form where there is a steady progression of the disease with occasional relapses.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and MS​

Traditional Chinese Medicine classifies multiple sclerosis as “atrophy” syndrome and “Bi syndrome”. 

During periods of relapse also known as acute period(急性期), body constitution of patients mostly express Heat dampness body types. Symptoms such as weakness or heaviness in the limbs, numbness of tingling sensation, chest tightness, sticky bowels, dark scanty urine.

 

During remission, also known as chronic periods(缓解期), body constitution mostly seen are Spleen stomach Qi deficiency and Liver Kidney deficiency. 

  1. Spleen stomach Qi deficiency – symptoms experienced include weakness in the limbs, poor appetite and watery bowels, fatigue

  2. Liver Kidney deficiency – symptoms include weakness in the limbs especially in the lower limbs, soreness in the back, dizziness and tinnitus, hair loss, urinary incontinence, irregular menstruation

TCM acupuncture and herbal medication can be prescribed to alleviate symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. Clinical trials have shown that TCM is effective to alleviate symptoms, prevent recurrence, and delay disease progression in MS patients. Regular acupuncture treatment has been found to have a positive therapeutic effect on the recovery of movement and reducing abnormal sensations of the hands, fingers, feet, and toes.