By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy
My son Eric is a picky eater. Frankly, he doesn’t want to eat anything that isn’t covered with sugar. His sister Emily has always eaten well. In fact by the age of two she had tried and liked several different types of fish, buffalo, elk, and liver. I hate liver, but my two year old daughter would eat it. Eric is different. He is always raiding the pantry for cookies, and treats. We find sucker sticks and granola bar wrappers all over the house. However, it is difficult to get him to eat the veggies and meat on his plate. Once he even licked the icing off of a cinnamon bun and tried to leave the table because he said he was full. I mean who doesn’t finish eating a cinnamon bun? So imagine our surprise when Safeway started sampling sushi and Eric liked it. He now wants to pick up sushi every time that we going grocery shopping. I assumed Eric would never voluntarily eat any healthy food until sampling at Safeway made him aware of other choices. Sometimes we aren’t aware of diseases in our community until a spot light is shone on them as well. That’s why May is Multiple Sclerosis awareness month!
What is MS or multiple sclerosis? It is an unpredictable and often debilitating disease of the brain and spinal cord. Some of the long nerves in the brain and spinal cord have a covering called myelin. Myelin works a like the plastic covering around a telephone cord. Without the insulating plastic cover, some of the signal that goes down the telephone wire would leak out. The voice on the phone would sound delayed, weakened, garbled or possibly not there at all. In MS, the body mistakenly attacks the insulating myelin sheath around some of the nerve fibers. So the signals from the brain to the body or body back to the brain get weaker, delayed, garbled or go missing altogether.
Since MS affects some myelin covers some of the time, this leads to one of the most fascinating and frustrating facets of the disease. The symptoms of MS change and are unpredictable. The most common form of MS, relapsing and remitting MS, has well defined attacks followed by complete or partial recovery. It can go away and come back. And it can affect vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. And this is not just that the disease affects different people in different ways! The same person can have different symptoms each attack. You can imagine how frustrating it would be to both worker and employer if a worker came to work one week in a wheel chair and then the next week could walk. Then six months later she could still walk, but says she can’t read her computer screen without magnification. And then she is fine. And then six months later she calls in sick for 3 weeks because she is too fatigued to leave the house. Unfortunately, since people with MS often don’t look sick and they have symptoms that come and go, some confused employers treat an employees with MS unfairly.
In the last couple of years, all the media attention on MS has revolved around CCSVI. CCSVI stands for chronic cerebro-spinal venous insufficiency. It was a theory put forward by Italian surgeon Dr. Paolo Zamboni. CCSVI proponents believe veins in the neck of MS patients narrow. This causes blood which would normally drain out of the brain to back up and cause inflammation and damage. So Dr. Zamboni proposed that if you surgically open these neck veins up, the excess blood drain properly and the MS symptoms would go away. The best that can be said for CCSVI surgery is that the jury is still out. Some people have had CCSVI surgery and feel very good now. There have also been some strokes and deaths associated with the surgery. CCSVI surgery isn’t available in Canada, and many people have flown out of Canada and paid for the surgery out of there own pockets. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration in the US has come out with a warning on CCSVI surgery. The warning says in part, “the FDA has learned of death, stroke, detachment and migration of the stents, damage to the treated vein, blood clots, cranial nerve damage and abdominal bleeding associated with the experimental procedure”. In Canada, Health Canada is still planning a clinical trial of CCSVI treatment. So although researchers believe we are getting closer to a cure for MS, it is unclear if CCSVI will be that cure.
Compared with big diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes, why should you care about MS? While it is true that MS isn’t as common or as deadly as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada. In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Within our country, Manitoba has one of the highest rates of MS in Canada. Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie, who works at the MS Clinic in Winnipeg, published a paper about MS prevalence in Manitoba in the January 2010 issue of Neurology. She concluded Manitoba has one of the highest prevalence rates of MS in the world. So, Multiple Sclerosis does affect a lot of people in our area. There are even more local connections to MS research. Dr. Mike Namaka, who grew up in Winnipegosis, is also an MS researcher at the Winnipeg MS Clinic. It’s nice to see a Parkland prodigy work on a Manitoba problem.
With Manitoba having one of the highest rates of MS in the World, Multiple Sclerosis is a disease Manitobans should be aware of. Just like Eric discovering sushi in Safeway and hopefully opening up a world of healthy food choices to him, we hope researchers like Dr. Namaka will discover a cure to end MS.
As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.
The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.
MS Society of Canada www.mssociety.ca
FDA CCSVI warning: www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm303538.htm