Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on May 03, 2012
Ben Thrower, MD; Neurologist and Medical Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center, Atlanta, GA. National Multiple Sclerosis Society Medline ://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/multiplesclerosis.htmlHarvard Medical Schools (Consumer Health Information):http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW/8320/21154/31523.html?d=dmtcontent
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Steve Lore : Would run 3 to 5 miles, 3 to 4 times a week.
Narrator: No longer. His legs don't work the way they used to. Communication between his brain and other parts of his body has been damaged by multiple sclerosis.
Steve Lore : I loved running. And I miss that, especially on spring days and fall days.
Narrator: He also misses being a trial lawyer. He still keeps an office in the prestigious law firm where he used to practice, but his career ambitions have faded along with a memory stripped of its reliability. Although symptoms vary patient to patient, early signs can include severe fatigue, tingling or numbness, and vision problems. As the disease progresses, cognitive and memory issues, sexual dysfunction, difficulty swallowing, muscle spasms, even paralysis of the limbs can be added obstacles.
: What we hope we don't see is ongoing progression.
Narrator: MS can be notoriously hard to diagnose. Physical exams, blood work and spinal fluid may be tapped for scrutiny.
: So we're gonna take a look at your brain MRIs.
Narrator: Brain MRI's cast suspicion, but don't usually paint the whole picture.
Ben Thrower, MD: There are lots of things that can cause little white spots on an MRI of the brain and a lot of those things are not multiple sclerosis.
Narrator: Unfortunately for Steve, these white spots were signs of advanced MS.
Steve Lore: I have accepted the fact that I have this illness. And I've accepted the fact there's no cure for it. And I will have it until the day I die.
: Feel like your vision has been pretty stable over the past year...
Narrator: Many MS patients respond to drugs called Immune Modulators, which slow the disease and reduce damage. Regrettably, none of these first-line drugs helped Steve.
Ben Thrower, MD: There are people like Steve out there who either have side-effects with existing medicines or they just don't get a good treatment response and their MS is continuing to progress.
Narrator: So Steve was put on a second tier drug that eventually did impede his MS. But because risky side effects like severe infections of the spinal cord and brain can occur, doctors tend to offer this secondary line of defense only after first-line meds prove fruitless.
Narrator: MS is not contagious and though blood lines are believed to play a small role, it's rare that more than one family member is afflicted. Still it takes a toll on those closest.
: Piano playing
Narrator: The adjustment for a spouse of an MS patient, for example, can often be as profound as it is for the person with the condition.
Steve Lore : She is, she understands. And she's not, she's stood by me.
Narrator: For now, treatment has stabilized Steve's MS, but clearly there is much the disease has taken away.
Steve Lore : I miss playing golf with my boys. Can't play golf at all. Don't have the balance and I get really tired easily.
Narrator: Here at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta which houses the MS institute, Steve has found solace in counseling others with physical and cognitive impairments.
Steve Lore : I wasn't able to put myself in that wheelchair, with that person in the wheelchair, but I can now.
Narrator: And that mission has granted him a renewed sense purpose and fulfillment. For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.