MS Alphabet: Abnormal reflexes, ACTH, Amantadine and Other ‘A’ Words

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by Tamara Sellman |

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MS Alphabet

When it comes to multiple sclerosis, mastering your own understanding of the disease means you need to mind your P’s and Q’s, dot your i’s, cross your t’s, 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.

This week, I offer five terms for the letter “A” in the MS alphabet that you might encounter and wish to master.

Abnormal reflexes are a symptom of the disease. Reflexes are muscle movements that respond to signals sent to them from the brain. Abnormal reflexes occur when there’s a problem with the delivery of the signal. This could cause a malfunctioning muscle to occur, or for multiple responses to a single signal to occur.

ACTH is an abbreviation. It stands for adrenocorticotropic hormone. This hormone stimulates the adrenal glands to release another class of hormones known as glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are anti-inflammatory in nature; they help to reduce swelling and relieve other effects of inflammation. Since the 1970s, ACTH has been thought to reduce the duration of MS episodes.

Recent synthetic forms of glucocorticoids, such as prednisone and cortisone, were developed so they could be administered directly to a patient having an MS episode. This eliminated the need to wait for the body to release ACTH to stimulate the adrenal glands on its own. These synthetic hormones are more potent, last longer, and result in less sodium retention and potassium loss than those naturally occurring in the body.

Activities of Daily Living can indicate how ability and disability are influenced by MS. These include any tasks a person performs on a daily basis as part of their personal care regimen, such as cooking, dressing, or bathing. It also can include a person’s ability to perform at a job, manage housework, pay bills, or participate in normal leisure activities (such as a softball league).

When MS symptoms disrupt one’s ability to participate in Activities of Daily Living, it may be possible for them to pursue disability.

Adhesion molecules are part of the biology of MS. These molecules adhere, or stick, to specific kinds of cells in order to capture them. They serve to bind together cells so they can communicate and interact. Adhesion molecules bolster cell development and growth. They also identify pathogens, facilitate healthy inflammatory response, and repair tissue damage.

Research in MS focuses on the way in which adhesion molecules bind with and move activated T cells and natural killer cells across the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier normally separates the bloodstream from the brain. In MS, breaching this barrier leads to immune system attacks to the myelin that coats the nerves. These attacks can result in the brain lesions characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

Amantadine (brand names Symadine, Symmetral) is an antiviral medication used to reduce fatigue in MS. It also reduces muscle stiffness and improves muscle control.

(Stay tuned for more columns about the MS alphabet.)

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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


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