Contains the full lesson along with a supporting toolkit, including teachers’ notes.
What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?
MS is a chronic autoimmune disease of the CNS (brain and spinal cord) first described by the French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot in 1868. It is chronic because it goes on over many years, albeit most frequently in bouts, and autoimmune because the body’s immune system attacks part of itself (the myelin sheath surrounding axons and dendrites) mistaking it for a pathogen. It is also called a demyelinating disease.
It usually makes its fi rst appearance between the ages of 20 and 40, affecting around 9000 people in Ireland, with women affected twice as often as men. The annual cost to the economy is estimated at around €450 million.
No two people’s symptoms are the same; they vary from fatigue, numbness, problems urinating or with vision, to the most obvious symptom − difficulties with mobility. Blurred or double vision is one of the commonest first symptoms and about 50% of those affected will need help with walking within 15 years of the onset of the disease.
The precise cause of the disease is unknown. However, there is a general consensus that there is a genetic component involving a combination of several genes and some researchers suspect vitamin D levels may also be involved as the occurrence of the disease increases as one moves further away from the bright sun of the equator.
The Nervous system
The nervous system is a co-ordination and communication system that uses electrical impulses to convey information very rapidly. It consists of two main sections: the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system. The peripheral system collects information and conveys it to the central system, which coordinates it and decides on an appropriate response. This is then conveyed to the effectors (muscles or glands) using the peripheral system.