We live in inflammatory times. When you inflame a situation, you provoke, you incite, and you rabble rouse. The outcome of this seditious onslaught? Irritation, swelling, redness, i.e. inflammation. Inflammation is derived from the Latin word inflammatio, to set on fire whether burning old ideologies about Wall Street, Race, Energy, International Relations or even medical dogma.
Thus, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of great moment. In the world of inflammation research, so much great work has emerged based on MS clinical and laboratory models, that it is hard to deny top drawer status for this classical immune disorder of the nervous system. By extension, we have recently learned that inflammation in the brain may trigger Alzheimer Disease and inflamed gums can lead to Stroke. Of course, we have known for decades the Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus- SLE) involves inflammation throughout the body, at times inflaming the brain.
MS is first an inflammatory disorder that attacks only the Central Nervous System (CNS-brain and spinal cord). It is not an intrinsic dismantling of these organs.
What do I mean? If one is born with a bone weakness, the bone may be fracture prone. If one has a gene defect that causes a liver problem since birth, metabolism within this organ is impaired and yellow jaundice can set in. In these conditions, one disturbance begets another.
This is not the same in MS. The MS brain is under inflammatory assault but biological integrity preceded the immunological warfare on it.
An analogy can be made to "Heart Disease" wherein there is also confusion built into the disease label. Atherosclerosis, cholesterol packed plugs within tiny arteries that supply the heart is the "Heart Disease" in the vast majority of such patients. It is the blockage of these coronary arteries that causes the Angina and Myocardial Infarction (MI).
Thus, there's the link to MS. Speaking broadly, MS is something that happens to a normal brain just as "Heart Disease" (in the common usage of the term) is something that is imposed upon a functioning heart. In contrast, Congenital Heart Disease is a birth defect through which the patient has an abnormal heart chamber or heart valve.
The effect of the Atherosclerosis that strikes the patient with "Heart Disease" or inflammation that strikes the patient with MS is the induction of other derangements.
A heart damaged by a severe MI will never recover good pumping action. In contrast, a brain inflamed by MS can return to near normalcy through immunomodulator therapy. Despite best efforts however, some damage to nerves and their connections as a result of the inflammation is irreversible.
Dumping some toxic waste on your living room tile can be cleaned up. Order up an aggressive mop job and pronto! However, the stuff can damage the flooring despite one's best attempts to take care of the mess. Allowing the inflammation in MS (and perhaps in Alzheimer's) to smolder untreated can also have its negative consequences. The next process in MS is degeneration of the brain or spinal cord, wherein the structure of these organs is irretrievably injured.
Published On: February 11, 2009