YOUR HEALTH: Brain changes studied in MS patients


GAINESVILLE, Florida – Sarah Maurer was 23 years old when her body went numb from the neck down.

"I couldn't brush my own hair. I had no control over my hands."

Soon after, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.   With no cure, the only remedy is medicine and research.

According to a recent study published in the Medical Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, each MS relapse impacts what's stored in a patient's brain reserve.  This could be why MS patients have a tougher time understanding social cues.

"I have a harder time picking up sarcasm from my 15-year-old," said Sarah.   "He says, 'Mom I'm joking'."

Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable and quite often debilitating disease that involves the central nervous system.  It disrupts the flow of information within the brain, as well as between the brain and body.  The cause of MS is still unknown; scientists believe it may be triggered by a yet-to-be-identified environmental factor in people who are genetically predisposed to respond.

While Maurer took medication for MS, her relapses and symptoms continued.  Thanks to recent medical advancements, she now takes a new pill.  And it's working.

"When I had my MRI in 2016, I had enhancing legions and new legions," she explained.  "And that was scary. I had an MRI in March; nothing enhancing and nothing new."

Dr. Augusto Miravalle from the University of Florida says there are now 15 approved medications doctors can use to stop Multiple Sclerosis from getting worse.

"With our therapies, we pretty much expect nothing new, said Dr. Miravalle, as associate neorology professor.    "So, no new legions in the brain, and no relapses or no clinical attacks as well as no evidence of disease progression."

Mauer's advice to others in her shoes: keep a fighting spirit. The one thing a disease can't control.

"I just do my best to stay more than two steps ahead of it. Catch me if you can."

NEW INFORMATION: A new study published in the Medical Journal of the American Academy of Neurology is shedding light on MS relapses and the impacts they have on what is stored in a patient`s brain reserves. It could cause MS patients to have a tougher time understanding or catching social cues, such as picking up sarcasm. On these study-related brain scans, MS patients had widespread abnormalities in their white matter as compared to average healthy patients. The most extensive damage was done in the areas that play an important role in the brain`s network. The more damage people had in these areas, the more likely they were to have lower scores on the clinical tests.  (Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170531162947.htm)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.