Ever since she was a child Carrieanna has enjoyed traveling, whether up and down the West Coast, across the U.S. to Iowa and West Virginia, or “across the pond” to Italy, Germany and Ecuador.
When she was diagnosed with MS in her early 20’s, Carrieanna decided that she would continue to travel as much as she could, declaring “I have MS, but MS doesn’t have me.”
With the help of physical therapy, medications and sheer determination, she has added the Netherlands and Alaska to her “places I have been” list, and that list continues to grow.
Carrieanna has also received great support through the MS Quality of Life Project, a non-profit organization serving Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito (California) counties. She currently serves on the MSQLP board, striving to help others with an MS diagnosis.
Education is key to understanding and living with MS, or supporting someone who has it. Here is a simple description of this disease, along with some important facts.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.
In the CNS, nerve fibers or axons are surrounded by a layer of insulation called myelin. Myelin allows nerve signals to travel properly,
In MS, the myelin is destroyed (demyelination) on the brain and spinal cord. The scarring, located at multiple sites in the CNS, disrupts transmission of messages that communicate a desired action from the brain, through the spinal cord, to various parts of the body.
This is similar to a frayed electrical cord. The insulation assures that the electricity running along the wire reaches its destination without short-circuiting. In MS, the transmission along the nerve fibers “short-circuits,” becoming faulty or absent.
Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs or poor coordination, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.
A few important facts:
- Different people are likely to experience very different symptoms.
- MS is not contagious and is not directly inherited.
- Most people with MS have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.
- The majority of people with MS do not become severely disabled.
- There are now FDA-approved medications that have been shown to reduce the number of relapses and “modify” or slow down the underlying course of MS.