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Multiple Sclerosis: A race against time

The onset and course of Multiple Sclerosis (or MS) can vary widely between patients. In some, it may initially present with tingling sensations or muscle weakness, yet others may develop vision impairment or a litany of other serious neurological sequelae. The most disturbing attribute of this disease, however, may be that while some patients may be fortunate to have a milder course or progression then others, as time passes, virtually all MS patients are subjected to increasing disability. Furthermore, the etiology of MS remains a mystery.

The current school of thought, which has been largely supported by academic research, points the finger at an autoimmunological process. in other words, the native immune system is wrecking havoc. Indeed, current management of patients with MS largely focuses on the suppression or modulation of the immune system in order to improve symptoms.

Unfortunately, however, these treatments only serve to delay relapses, decrease severity of symptoms and/or shorten the flare ups of the disease -- they do not cure MS.

Recently, an Italian vascular specialist by the name of Paolo Zamboni, proclaimed that he found an association between MS and what he called Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCVI). Which simply means that veins which drain blood above the heart are narrowed, and that correction of CCVI can cause the disease to stop progressing in many patients. However, the theory has been received cautiously and many remain skeptical. As a result, the theory is being investigated by numerous academics. Preliminary results indicate supportive and contradictory results and therefore the theory will remain subject to further inquiry.

Unfortunately, many MS patients who are seeing continuous decline in their health feel that they cannot wait until this is sorted out. And, as a result, have sought the treatment for CCVI (opening up the narrow vessels with intravascular balloons) overseas. While many would see this as going out on a limb, can you blame them?

While it is imperative to find a long lasting solution for MS as soon as possible, any proposed treatment requires inquiry and validation. Because without it, treatment could be just as detrimental as it could be beneficial.

This case exemplifies one of the continuous challenges in fighting disease that both patients and academics face -- a race against time.

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