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The brain is the communications centre of the body. It exchanges information with all parts of the body through a network of neurons.
Neurons are composed of a cell body and an axon, a long wire-like tail that carries electrical messages to other neurons. The axon is coated with a substance called myelin, which insulates the electrical current and allows it to flow unimpeded, much like the insulation on an electrical wire. This smooth communication is critical to normal bodily functions such as speech, muscular movement, vision, and bladder and bowel control.
MS is known to be an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own nervous system. Many factors are involved, including age, gender, climate, and genetics. MS attacks and damages the axon’s myelin coating, interfering with the communications between the brain and other parts of the body and within the brain. The damage leaves sclerosis—from the Greek meaning scars—in the brain, resulting from the loss of myelin. Symptoms can include the loss of memory, sensory deficits, and motor problems.
MS is the most common neurological disorder afflicting young adults in Canada, with more than 50,000 people suffering from this debilitating disease. The highest incidence of MS in Canada occurs right here in British Columbia. Because the disease is progressive, the emotional, physical, and financial drain on the affected persons and on their families is immeasurable.