PODCAST: Health First Neurologist Dr. Cindy Joseph Addresses Multiple Sclerosis and Game-Changing Treatments
By Space Coast Daily // August 24, 2023
National Multiple Sclerosis Society: nearly a million Americans are living with MS
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to Dr. Cindy Joseph’s podcast explaining multiple sclerosis – hear her discuss the risk factors and innovative treatments.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — A study funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and published earlier this year found that nearly a million Americans are living with multiple sclerosis (MS).
With celebrities like Selma Blair and Montel Williams going public with their diagnoses, it can seem like the disease is spreading. It’s not, says Health First Neurologist Cindy Joseph, MD, in the latest episode of Putting Your Health First.
“It’s not more prevalent than it was before – it’s being diagnosed more,” she says. “People have better access to doctors and healthcare, and this leads to a more prompt diagnosis,” which is critical to getting effective care.
MS is an autoimmune disorder. In this case, the immune system targets tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
There are several different forms of MS, but by far the most common diagnosis is Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), which is characterized by attacks (relapses) followed by recovery (remission). For about 15% of MS sufferers, the diagnosis is primary progressive (PPMS) – disability accumulates after symptoms first appear.
“What this entails is that there is a progressive decline in patients function as well as increased symptoms.”
The symptoms are diverse:
■ Tingling and weakness (often on one side of the body)
■ Loss of coordination
■ Imbalance leading to falls
■ Vision problems
■ Slurred speech, and more
There is a symptom called Lhermitte’s sign that’s triggered by bowing your head that feels like a sudden electrical shock down the back of your neck and spine that radiates into your extremities. There’s another factor, Uhtoff’s syndrome, in which any of these symptoms become worse when the body becomes overheated, either because of exercise, fever or immediate environment.
The first onset of symptoms usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 50. Dr. Joseph said MS is not hereditary, but it may be due to mutations of the DNA. Women are much more likely – 3 to 1 – to suffer from it than men. Tobacco use and obesity are associated with it. Sunshine may be salubrious.
“Vitamin D is actually protective. So places that are further from the equator where you don’t get as much vitamin D [from the sun] create a higher risk of getting it.”
There is no cure for MS, but Dr. Joseph says managing the chronic disease has never been better.
The first immune-modulating medication for MS was developed around the turn of the century. An interferon injection helps reduce the immune response that causes symptoms, and over the last few years, there has been a surge in still more refined therapies.
“With all the recent advances, the prognosis can be very favorable, especially if caught early,” she says.
For this reason, “it’s important to go see your doctor if you think you have any of the signs or symptoms of MS so you can be diagnosed early and treated.”
Today, Americans diagnosed with MS can have a very high quality of life.
“The outlook is more promising than it’s ever been.”
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to the full Putting Your Health First episode with Neurologist Cindy Joseph, MD.