Comprehensive multiple sclerosis care begins with a diagnosis and lasts a lifetime. As the No. 3 rehabilitation hospital in the U.S. and the best in Texas, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, TIRR Memorial Hermann sets the standard of excellence in the rehabilitation of persons with neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS).
What is multiple sclerosis?
MS is a chronic, often disabling, inflammatory neurological disorder of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves). MS damages the protective insulation (called myelin) that surrounds the nerves and may also damage the nerves. Demyelination and scarring occur as the disease progresses. This interferes with the ability of nerve cells to communicate with each other, producing a variety of symptoms.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS may affect more than 2.3 million people worldwide. Most diagnoses are made between the ages of 20 and 50, and women are at least two to three times more likely to have MS than men.
What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?
MS symptoms vary in type, severity and duration from one individual to another, depending on the amount of damage and the specific nerves affected. Most patients experience episodic patterns of attack and remissions throughout the course of the disease, while others may have a slowly progressive form of the disease. More common symptoms include:
- Walking difficulties
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle weakness
- Vision problems
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Bladder and bowel problems
- Sexual problems
- Cognitive and emotional changes
What causes multiple sclerosis?
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, while the cause of MS is still unknown, scientists believe that the interaction of several different factors may be involved, including:
- Immunologic factors. In MS, an abnormal immune-mediated response attacks the myelin coating around nerve fibers in the central nervous system, as well as the nerve fibers themselves.
- Environmental factors. MS is known to occur more frequently in areas that are farther from the equator. Lack of Vitamin D (including from lack of sunlight exposure) and smoking may be risk factors.
- Infectious factors. Scientists are exploring linkages between viruses, infections and MS, but nothing definitive has been proven.
- Genetic factors. While MS is not hereditary, studies have shown that there is a higher prevalence of certain genes in populations with higher rates of MS.
How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?
At this time, there is no single, definitive laboratory test to diagnose MS. A diagnosis is made through a neurologic examination and review of a patient’s medical history. The MS team at the Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center uses state-of-the-art MRI technologies to assist in determining if a patient’s symptoms are related to MS and to aid in monitoring and evaluating disease evolution and the effects of therapy over time. Physicians may also perform a spinal tap, also called a lumbar puncture, to remove and test a patient’s cerebrospinal fluid, to help them diagnose disorders of the brain and spinal cord, including MS.
What rehabilitation is available for multiple sclerosis, and what are the benefits?
The goal of rehabilitation is to improve and maintain function. TIRR Memorial Hermann offers a wide range of therapy and rehabilitation for MS patients, in both inpatient and outpatient settings, including:
- Comprehensive evaluation and management of rehabilitation needs by a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor
- Evidence-based interventions to help patients gradually improve neuromuscular control and maintain quality of life
- Patient and family training with adaptive devices, such as a wheelchair or braces
- Neuropsychological assessment for problems such as attention, memory and problem solving skills
- Psychological assessment and treatment for coping skills and to manage depression or anxiety
- Physical therapy to optimize muscle control, balance, flexibility and mobility, as well as to build strength and endurance
- Occupational therapy to help patients develop the necessary skills for job accessibility - everything from personal grooming to driving and working
- Speech language pathology assessment and therapy to help patients overcome problems with communication, language and swallowing
- Recreational therapy and vocational counseling to help patients transition back to home and school or work
The TIRR Memorial Hermann Challenge Program provides a comprehensive range of services to help patients with MS (and other neurological injuries) maximize their potential, celebrating milestones and successes through each step of recovery. Our outcome studies show that, on average, 93 percent of those completing the treatment program met their independence and personal safety goals, decreasing their need for supervision at home and in the community. Read more >>
Meet the Team
Our interdisciplinary team of experts works closely with the patients and their families and caregivers to foster improved quality of life and maximize positive patient outcomes. We promote close collaboration with all members of the team to ensure patients receive the most appropriate management of their illness.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society website contains comprehensive resources and educational materials for MS patients and their families.
To get started, use the Become a Patient form or contact us by phone 1 (800) 44-REHAB (73422) , (713) 797-5942 or fax (713)797-5988.
By the time Jim Hyndman was diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2009, he was unable to walk and suffering intense, painful lower extremity muscle spasms. Today, he stands upright using a walking stick decorated with medallions from his travels. He credits the transformation to three subspecialists affiliated with the Mischer Neuroscience Institute (MNI) and a doctor of physical therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
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