“I always say there were two possibilities: either I would win the lottery or I would get an illness. It’s something I have to live with and not let it rule my life. At least it has given me two more letters after my name: MS,” says the president of the Malaga Association of Multiple Sclerosis patients and their families, David Vila.
MS is still the great unknown, surrounded by myths and incomprehension, because it affects everyone differently and that is why it is called ‘the illness with 1,000 faces. Today, 30 May, is World Multiple Sclerosis Day.
It is a neurological illness that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal column). People’s immune systems normally protect them from infections and illnesses, but in this case it mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells, preventing information sent by the brain reaching the rest of the body.
There are three main types of multiple sclerosis. In primary MS, the symptoms tend to appear gradually, are degenerative and affect walking in particular.
The most common type is recurring-remitting, when symptoms occur occasionally, affecting vision or the movement of a limb. It can sometimes cause neurological side-effects.
The third type can be developed by patients with recurring-remitting MS, and it involves increasing disability but also periods of stability.
However, the head of the Neurology unit at the Regional Hospital in Malaga, Pedro Serrano, says there has been major progress in treatments for the illness in recent years. “This neurological illness has seen greater advances than any other in terms of treatment, and the earlier the patients start to receive the treatment, the more effective it is,” he says.