Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the nervous system in which mainly nerve fibers are damaged. The disease affects various parts of the brain and spinal cord, and the lesion is multiple. For the first time the pathology was studied in detail and considered by the neurologist Charcot in 1886. The disease in most cases affects young people and children. The population of Western countries suffers much more often. The highest prevalence is found in North America and Europe.
The origin of the disease has not been sufficiently studied to date. The most common among specialists is the so-called autoimmune theory, according to which the patient’s body produces special altered antibodies that affect their own cells. The reason for the development of this condition is considered to be a long-term infection of viral or bacterial origin, as a result of which normal immune blood cells acquire aggressive properties in relation to the formations of the nervous system. As a result of such violations, immune cells – lymphocytes – begin to synthesize and release pathological antibodies into the blood, which, settling in the nervous system, lead to its defeat. The sheaths that envelop the nerve fibers disintegrate, and in this place, very rough scars are subsequently formed. Most often and most significantly those parts of the brain are affected, which are the most “young” in the process of evolution. These primarily include the cerebral cortex, as well as the optic nerves, motor cells of the cortex, and the posterior parts of the spinal cord.
Pathology, however, is not limited to the nervous system. These immune disorders lead to profound shifts throughout the body. First of all, there is a decrease in the function of the adrenal glands, as a result, signs of a lack of their hormones develop. Since these hormones normally suppress allergic reactions, immune disorders are further aggravated in turn. The damage to the nervous system is progressing.
In addition, there are a number of hypotheses regarding the origin of multiple sclerosis in children: vascular, traumatic, toxic, infectious, metabolic, genetic. In 1933, the scientist Putnan expressed the idea that the formation of blood clots in small veins plays the greatest role in the development of pathology, as a result of which the blood supply to nerve fibers is disrupted, which in turn is the cause of further pathological changes in them. But this theory subsequently did not find significant confirmation. Often blood clots form in completely different places where nerve fibers are damaged. In addition, in multiple sclerosis, it is not the gray matter of the brain that is more affected, as it should be in case of circulatory disorders, but the white one. Currently, it is generally accepted that the defeat of small veins is caused by the same pathological changes as the defeat of nerve fibers. These two pathologies are considered concomitant.
It has been proven that during allergic conditions the formation of blood clots in small vessels and in some cases even small hemorrhages from them can very often occur. Sometimes, in the presence of a large number of such vascular changes, a condition may develop that somewhat resembles multiple sclerosis, but has nothing to do with it.
In 1934, the scientist Hosslin noted some connection between cases of multiple sclerosis in children with a previous trauma. This observation was confirmed by the fact that during the disease it was precisely those formations of the nervous system that were located at the site of injury that were affected. But further research proved that trauma is not a direct cause of multiple sclerosis, but only a predisposing factor to it, which, when exposed, can significantly shorten the initial latent period of the disease.
The most famous supporters of the hereditary theory of the disease were such prominent scientists as Rossolimo, Müller, Strumpel. Currently, this hypothesis has almost no supporters. The facts that refute it are the cases observed in clinics when the disease developed acutely and subacutely, in addition, cases of pathology in newborns are very rare. In addition, the disease almost never proceeds smoothly; in its development, a series of exacerbations and improvements in the patient’s condition is often observed, which is more typical for allergic, but not hereditary pathologies. In favor of the genetic theory of multiple sclerosis, however, is evidenced by the fact that there are familial cases of pathology, when the disease occurs for several generations in a row. This question still remains open among scientists. Two different explanations for familial cases of multiple sclerosis can be put forward: either defects in the structure of the connective tissue are inherited, which predisposes to autoimmune reactions, or disorders of immunity are initially inherited. In addition, in a number of cases, true hereditary diseases in their manifestations seem to be disguised as multiple sclerosis, and it is very difficult to recognize them.
And, finally, the toxic hypothesis of the disease bases its views on the fact that when exposed to the human body, certain toxic substances (such as arsenic, lead, zinc, manganese, potassium cyanide, saponin, carbon monoxide, triorthocresyl phosphate, toxins of diphtheria and tetanus bacteria, snake poison, etc.) can lead to the formation of pathological foci in the brain and spinal cord. But later it turned out that the development of multiple sclerosis in a child is in no way associated with the effects of these toxic substances. At the same time, when poisoning with these substances, pathological processes develop in the nervous system, but they bear little resemblance to those in multiple sclerosis.
There are a huge variety of environmental factors that, without directly causing the disease, at the same time can act as provoking, facilitating the occurrence of pathological changes.
These include: high humidity, low temperatures, insufficient sun exposure. These factors mainly affect the nervous system, which, in turn, interacting with the endocrine glands, leads to a restructuring of the body’s immunity, and an allergic predisposition appears. At the same time, the resistance of the immune forces to various infections is significantly reduced. The permeability of the vessels of the brain increases significantly, as a result of which the antibodies circulating in them enter the nervous tissue and lead to the development of pathological processes in it.
Changes in the nervous system lead to changes in the organs of internal secretion, primarily the adrenal glands, thyroid gland, pituitary gland, etc. As a result, the existing immune changes are further aggravated.
Summing up the above, it can be noted that, despite the general acceptance of the immunological theory of multiple sclerosis at the moment, it is impossible, however, to completely deny the role of viral agents in its emergence and development. Perhaps, in the future, the virus responsible for this disease will be discovered and studied in detail. But even if such a virus is detected, the first role in the onset of pathology will still be assigned to the body of a sick child, since the changes occurring in it to a greater extent determine the further course and severity of multiple sclerosis. The role of the virus consists only in the fact that when it is in the body for a long time, it causes a decrease in immune reactions, the so-called immune resistance, and in the future – allergic reactions. Thus, infection with a virus and the disease itself are two completely different things. Predisposing factors also play an important role in the development of allergies, some of which were listed above. Infection with the human virus occurs most often between the ages of 12 and 15. An important fact is that during the course of immune shifts occurring in the body, not only the nervous system is affected, but also many other systems. Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the whole organism. Further study of it seems to be a very important task, the solution of which can provide invaluable assistance in finding therapeutic and preventive measures.