What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS), is an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system, launching an attack on its own tissue. Multiple sclerosis can range from relatively benign to somewhat disabling to devastating, as communication between the brain and other parts of the body is disrupted. Multiple sclerosis affects balance, coordination, strength, and other body functions to varying degrees, based on severity and form.
What are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
Early multiple sclerosis symptoms include weakness, tingling, numbness, fatigue, poor balance, vertigo, and blurred vision. Symptoms often start between ages 20 and 40. As multiple sclerosis progresses, most people with MS have attacks, also called relapses, when the condition gets noticeably worse. They’re usually followed by times of recovery when symptoms improve.
How is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?
Based on symptoms, tests for multiple sclerosis are as follows:
- Blood tests to look for other problems with MS-like symptoms, like Lyme disease
- A test to measure the speed of signals traveling along one’s nerves
- An MRI, which creates images of the brain, so a doctor can check for areas of damage
- A spinal tap to check the fluid that flows in the brain and spinal cord; this may show signs that the immune system is harming the nervous system, which is what happens in MS.
What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?
The causes of multiple sclerosis remain unknown. The disease is especially common in Scotland, Scandinavia, and throughout northern Europe. In the U.S. the prevalence of MS is higher in whites than in other racial groups. Multiple sclerosis may, in part, be inherited (genetics contribute to the increased risk among family members). Siblings of an affected person have a 2% to 5% risk of developing MS. Some scientists theorize that MS develops because a person is born with a genetic predisposition to react to some environmental agent, which, upon exposure, triggers an autoimmune response.
What are the Types of Multiple Sclerosis?
- Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is one of the MS disease courses. CIS refers to a first episode of neurologic symptoms that lasts at least 24 hours and is caused by inflammation or demyelination (loss of the myelin that covers the nerve cells) in the central nervous system (CNS).
- Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), is the most common disease course – is characterized by clearly defined attacks of new or increasing neurologic symptoms. These attacks – also called relapses or exacerbations – are followed by periods of partial or complete recovery (remissions). During remissions, all symptoms may disappear, or some symptoms may continue and become permanent. However, there is no apparent progression of the disease during the periods of remission. At different points in time, RRMS can be further characterized as either active (with relapses and/or evidence of new MRI activity) or not active, as well as worsening (a confirmed increase in disability over a specified period of time following a relapse) or not worsening. Approximately 85% of people with MS are initially diagnosed with RRMS.
- Primary progressive MS (PPMS), is characterized by worsening neurologic function (accumulation of disability) from the onset of symptoms, without early relapses or remissions. PPMS can be further characterized at different points in time as either active (with an occasional relapse and/or evidence of new MRI activity) or not active, as well as with progression (evidence of disease worsening on an objective measure of change over time, with or without relapse or new MRI activity) or without progression. Approximately 15% of people with MS are diagnosed with PPMS.
- Secondary progressive MS (SPMS), follows an initial relapsing-remitting course. Most people who are diagnosed with RRMS will eventually transition to a secondary progressive course in which there is a progressive worsening of neurologic function (accumulation of disability) over time. SPMS can be further characterized at different points in time as either active (with relapses and/or evidence of new MRI activity) or not active, as well as with progression (evidence of disease worsening on an objective measure of change over time, with or without relapses) or without progression.
Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
Disease-modifying therapies are used to treat “relapsing forms” of multiple sclerosis, which include RRMS, as well as progressive forms in those individuals who continue to experience relapses. At the present time, there are no therapies that have been approved to treat PPMS without relapses. Scientists around the world are actively working to find effective treatments for progressive forms of multiple sclerosis.
The prognosis for Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is seldom fatal and life expectancy is shortened by only a few months. Concerns about prognosis centre primarily on the quality of life and prospects for disability. After 15 years, fewer than 20% of those with multiple sclerosis are fully debilitated; another 20% may require a wheelchair, or use crutches, or a cane to ambulate; but, fully 60% are ambulatory without assistance and some will have a little effect at all. In fact, as many as one-third of all patients with multiple sclerosis go through life without any persistent disability, and suffer only intermittent, transient episodes of symptoms.
Mobility for Those with Multiple Sclerosis
Approximately 30% of those living with multiple sclerosis require a wheelchair, often a power chair due to limited strength and fatigue. Quantum Rehab, the global leader in individualized power chair solutions, puts an emphasis on mobility technologies specific to those living with multiple sclerosis. Quantum Power Chairs incorporate power-adjustable seating for user repositioning and comfort; speciality drive controls, including using a single finger or one’s head to operate the power chair; and, a highly-adaptable design to meet an individual’s current and future needs.
Quantum Power Chairs feature the latest advanced technologies to increase the independence of those living with multiple sclerosis. iLevel seat elevation technology allows a user to operate the power chair at seated or standing height. Bluetooth is also integrated into Quantum’s Q-Logic 3 electronics, so those with multiple sclerosis can operate much of their environment with the power chair drive control, itself.
In all, Quantum Power Chairs are designed to give those living with multiple sclerosis optimal medical comfort and maximum independence. Please click here for more information on Quantum Power Chair solutions for those living with multiple sclerosis.
Mobility and Assistive Technology Needs
Depending on the progression and type of multiple sclerosis, mobility needs can include canes and crutches, leg braces, walkers, manual wheelchairs and scooters.
There is a portion of people living with MS who rely on the assistance of a power mobility device to assist them with the performance of Mobility Related Activities of Daily Living (MRADLs). These individuals may be able to push a manual wheelchair for part of the day, but due to fatigue, also rely on a powered mobility product.
If a person with MS requires a power wheelchair, it is typically advised to provide a power base that can easily be adapted to meet the individual’s changing seating and electronics needs due to the progressive nature of MS.
It is often advised to start the individual with proportional control (joystick) because this provides the most direct control for driving a power base.
As the disease progresses and the individual experiences more frequent fatigue, muscle weakness or other conditions affecting the ability to function, speciality controls may be required for the individual to continue performing MRADLs. Optional LED fender lights on the Q6 Edge 2.0 help clients see and be seen.
If the individual has decreased ability to shift weight independently or has developed altered sensation, the individual may require the benefits of a power positioning system. Options include tilt and recline systems, power seat elevation with iLevel and a power articulating foot platform.
When your client has progressed beyond the use of a manual wheelchair and power mobility is appropriate, a power base with the capability to accept full seating and positioning options and various drive controls. The Edge 3 is compatible with a variety of full seating and positioning components. Optional 4.5 mph iLevel Power Adjustable Seat Height lifts clients up to 12”, promoting greater independence and social interaction at eye level.
The Q6 Edge 2.0 also accept a wide selection of seating and positioning options and possess a proven track record of quality, reliability and customer satisfaction. Both power chairs have the capability to accept expandable electronics to meet the changing needs of your client.