MS Awareness Week: March 10 – 16, 2019
In honor of Multiple Sclerosis Week, I was asked to write a short blurb on the topic, and so I will take this opportunity to share a thought that has been running through my mind almost compulsively, and it is this: What is MS? The answer, unfortunately, is that no one knows. There are plenty of good and intriguing theories as to what it may be (Autoimmune? Infectious? Neurodegenerative? A combination of these three? Something else entirely?), ultimately though, we are still not sure what it is, or as fancy people would say, its underlying pathologic etiology. This may seem utterly disappointing at a glance, and in a way it is, but in many ways the answer may be inconsequential. This may surprise some, but we still do not know what causes rain to start precipitating (seriously, look that up… it shocked me, too). And over a hundred years after discovering the duality of light’s particle-wave nature, we still do not understand what it is. Why am I bringing up random facts about rainfall and light? Well, it’s because these are great examples of progress made despite significant ignorance. Civilization does not need to understand why rain starts to fall in order to utilize it for our advantage, to predict weather patterns, or greatly control our environment. And, in like manner, neither does our lack of understanding of the nature of quantum mechanics limit our ability to fully utilize it for our benefit.
As of now, MS remains a mystery, and while I am hopeful that one day we will understand what it is, this is not what gives me hope in this field. I look at the progress that has been made in the past 20 years and there are few – if any – branches of medicine in which such radical progress has been made. Where, within the lifetime of just about every MS patient that I treat, the condition has moved from a state where there were no disease modifying treatments to a state where patients are almost expected to live normal lives. I will not be annoyingly optimistic and pretend that there are always happily-ever-after endings to the modern story of MS, because there are many that are not. But, with the rate of progress that is being made in our field, it really is becoming increasing difficult to not be overly optimistic about what is being accomplished. From healthy diet and exercising, to clinical and radiologic monitoring, to staying abreast of incredibly effective available medications and ones that we expect to be soon released, the tool belt for treating this disease grows larger by the day. We may not ever understand what MS is, but we’ve already come so close to beating this disease in such a short period of time, another question that I’ve started to wonder recently is: Will that matter in another 20 years?
– Roderick I. Elias, MD
Lake Norman Neurology
Dr. Elias completed his undergraduate and graduate work at Tufts University in Medford, MA. He interned at Rutgers University at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He completed his residency and fellowship in multiple sclerosis at Rhode Island Hospital through Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. In addition to general neurology, Dr. Elias’ medical interests include Multiple Sclerosis (MS), neural plasticity, cellular and humoral immunity, and dietary and lifestyle approaches to medicine. “Medications can only do so much; lifestyle, diet, and exercise are other facets of any treatment plan that can have an enormous impact on all aspects of health,” Dr. Elias says. Dr. Elias has a passion for helping people. His philosophy is to “help people become the best version of themselves.”
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