MS News That Caught My Eye Last Week: PBA, Pregnancy, Interferon-beta, Pediatric MS Test

Columnist Ed Tobias shares his thoughts about the week's top MS news

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by Ed Tobias |

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Early Detection of Pseudobulbar Affect May Help Ease MS Symptom

I often see posts on social media from people with MS asking if crying for no reason is an MS symptom, because it happens to them. I didn’t know that apparently, it is. Laughing, too. This report says it can be severe, persistent, unremitting, and unpredictable. But if it’s caught early, it’s possible to control.

In its inaugural issue, a publication from The Gerontological Society of America provides information about recognizing and managing pseudobulbar affect — uncontrolled outbursts of crying or laughing that the authors say are one of the most “underrecognized and undertreated” symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological conditions.

The neurological symptom, known as PBA for short, is addressed in “Understanding Pseudobulbar Affect,” the first publication of the society‘s “Insights & Implications in Gerontology” series.

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Prior Pregnancy, But Not the Pill, May Protect Against MS

This review of earlier studies reports that women with at least one pregnancy generally showed a decreased risk of MS. Overall, the odds of developing MS were reduced by 36% compared with those who had never been pregnant. These researchers think it’s possible the sex hormones associated with pregnancy could be having an effect on the immune system.

The risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) is lower in women with a history of pregnancy and is not affected by the use of oral contraceptives, according to a recent meta-analysis of four published studies.

However, the four studies, conducted in the U.S. and Iran, showed considerable variability in their findings, particularly regarding the use of oral contraceptives, known colloquially as “the pill.”

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Study Uncovers How Interferon-beta May Be Helping to Treat MS

Interferon-beta treatments for MS, such as Betaseron, have been around for more than 20 years, but how they do their job isn’t completely understood. These researchers think they now know how they work. It has to do with red blood cells and zinc.

Researchers have discovered how interferon-beta, a common treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS), may be effective for people with the disease.

Specifically, they found that red blood cells from MS patients have an unusually high ability to bind molecules that contribute to disease-related impairments in neuronal health and myelin repair, compared with cells from healthy people, and that interferon-beta can significantly reduce this ability of red blood cells to bind these molecules.

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Eye Scans May Help to Diagnose MS in Children

We know it’s important to treat MS as early as possible, which requires diagnosing it early, too. Over the past several years, doctors and researchers have come to realize that can be as early as the teenage and preteen years. So it’s encouraging to see researchers use machine learning tools to analyze OCT eye scans to spot children who may have MS. The accuracy appears to be very good.

A machine learning approach based on eye scans was employed by researchers to diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS) in children with up to 80% accuracy.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) scans also provided enough data to diagnose other demyelinating diseases with 75% accuracy. OCT is an imaging tool that uses light waves to take pictures of the retina — a layer of light-sensitive nerve cells found at the back of the eye that plays a central role in vision — with the help of a computer.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

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