(Editor’s note: Tamara Sellman continues her occasional series on the MS alphabet with this third of three parts on terms starting with the letter “C.”)
When it comes to multiple sclerosis, mastering an understanding of the disease means you need to mind your Ps and Qs, dot your Is, cross your Ts, and recite your ABCs. There is so much to know about this complex disease. But the more you know as a patient, or caregiver, the more informed you will be in making critical healthcare decisions.
Symptoms of MS
This is part of the larger problem of dysphagia, or struggles with swallowing, which also include coughing. Choking occurs when trying to swallow food, liquids, or even one’s own saliva. The contents of the throat can be at risk for inhalation (aspiration) into the windpipe (trachea), rather than continuation down the esophagus.
This is highly problematic because inhaled substances can cause breathing problems, pneumonia, or ulcer-like formations in the bronchial tissues. One can aspirate solids and liquids in “silent” fashion, completely unaware. However, those tiny amounts of foreign material in the lungs can become dangerous, even deadly, over time.
Cerebrospinal Fluid. This is the clear liquid that floats around the brain and spinal cord. It provides a liquid cushion and shock absorber for these important tissues. CSF also transports vital nutrients and unique neurochemicals, specially filtered through the blood brain barrier (BBB), to aid in nervous system function. The CSF also washes away waste products.
It is inside the CSF that oligoclonal bands (referred to as “o bands”) can be found, which help confirm an MS diagnosis. These markers are discovered by a lumbar puncture (or spinal tap). In this diagnostic test, a long hollow needle is inserted into the spine to extract CSF for examination. The presence of “o bands” indicates evidence of inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) caused by diseases such as MS.
Common terms of MS
Chronic refers to a disease course that persists for a long period of time, is constantly recurring, or currently thought of as incurable, but not terminal (life-threatening). A person with chronic illness can expect to have that illness for their lifetime. People with Type 1 diabetes are considered to have chronic illness, as are people with multiple sclerosis or other autoimmune diseases.
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