Multiple Sclerosis History

1. It was Dr. Jean Martin Charcot (1825 - 1893) who first scientifically described, documented, and named the disease process, we still call Multiple Sclerosis.

So named, from the many scars found widely dispersed throughout the Central Nervous System (CNS), but are usually found to be arrayed in a symetrical pattern near the Cerebrum's Lateral Ventricles.

2. The first patient Dr. Freud ever treated was his former Nanny, who had Multiple Sclerosis. *Creeping Paralysis* as it was called in those days, was considered a mental condition caused by *Female Hysteria*. As such, little or no extensive research was conducted into the mysteries of MS, until very recent times.

3. Dr. V.B. Dolgopol in 1938, described a case of Optic Neuritis, caused by severe DeMyelination and attributed it to Devic's Syndrone. This syndrone was considered to be a subclass of Multiple Sclerosis, during this time period.

4. Merck Manual - 16'th Edition - 1992
States: "Plaques or islands of DeMyelination along with destruction of both Oligodendroglia and PeriVascular Inflammation are disseminated through the CNS.

They are primarily located in the White Matter, with a predilection for the Lateral and Posterior Column (esp. in the Cervical and Dorsal Regions), the Optic Nerves and PeriVentricular Areas.

Tracts of the MidBrain, Pons and Cerebellum also are affected, Cell Bodies and Axons usually are preserved, especially in early lesions. Later, Axons may be destroyed, usually in the long tracts, and Fibrous Gliosis - this is what gives the tracts their *sclerotic appearance*.

Often both early and late lesions may be found simultaneously. Chemical changes in Lipid and Protein constituents of Myelin have been demonstrated in and around the Plaques.

The course is highly varied and unpredictable and in most patients, remittent. At first, months or years of remission may seperate episodes, especially when the disease begins with Retrobulbar Neuritis (Optic Neuritis), but usually the intervals of freedom grow shorter, and eventually permanent, progressive disability occurs.

Some remissions have even lasted 25 years or more. However, some patients have very frequent attacks and are rapidly incapacitated; in a few, particularly when onset is in middle age, the disease course is progressively and UnRemittingly downhill, and occasionally it is fatal within a year."

The Early History

1400 - The earliest written record of someone with MS was Lydwina of Schieden, Dutch patron Saint of Ice Skaters.
1838 - Medical drawings clearly show what we today recognize as MS, but 19th century doctors did not understand what they saw and recorded.
1868 - Jean-Martin Charcot, professor of Neurology at the Univ of  Paris, wrote the first complete description of MS and the changes in the Brain which accompany it.
1878 - Myelin was discovered by Dr. Ranvier.
1919 - Abnormalities in the Spinal Fluid were discovered in MS, but their signifigance remained puzzeling for decades.
1920 - Men were thought to be more susceptible to MS than women.


Because women were often mistakenly diagnosed with *hysteria* - MS symptoms tend to flair each month for most female MSers, about 2 weeks before each Menstrual Cycle for many.

The elevated basal temperature during Ovulation, may result in temporary symptom intensification, during the second half of the cycle.

ProstaGlandins, a group of Hormones found in Menstrual Fluid and many other tissues, may play a role.

One study reported that 70 percent of women reported changes in their MS symptoms at a consistent point in their Menstrual Cycles. - Even today, most men (and too many Neurologist) remain ignorant of these facts.

Some Remedies

  • Taking an anti-inflammatory before you start Menstruating can help with symptoms.
  • Some women say taking an Aspirin a day helps with body temperature irregularity.
  • Taking a Calcium-Magnesium-Zinc compound may help some women.
  • Taking Estrogen supplements even before you enter Menopause, may prove beneficial for both your Menstrual disturbances and MS symptoms.
  • Taking diuretics also help many.


- Lord Edgar Douglas Adrian recorded the first electrical Nerve transmissions, which helped prove DeMyelinated Nerve cannot sustain electrical impulses.
1928 - The Oligodendrocyte cell that makes Myelin was discovered.
1935 - Dr. Thomas Rivers demonstrated that Nerve tissue, not Viruses, produced a MS-like illness. This animal form of MS, called EAE or Experimental Allergic EncephaloMyelitis, paved the way to our present theories of AutoImmunity, for it demonstrated the body can generate an Immunologic attack against itself.
1965 - White Blood Cells that react against a protein in Nerve insulating Myelin were discovered in MS.


Medicine's History of Understanding MS:

1890's - Caused by the supression of sweat; treated with herbs & bedrest; life expectancy after diagnosis was 5 years.
1910's - Caused by an unknown blood toxin; treated with purgatives & stimulants; life expectancy after diagnosis was 10 years.
1940's - Caused by blood clots & poor circulation; treated with drugs that improve circulation; life expectancy after diagnosis was 18 years.
1960's - Caused by allergic reaction; treated with Vitamins & Antihistimines; life expectancy after diagnosis was 25 years.
1996   - Caused by AutoImmune reaction possibly linked to Virus; treated with Steriods & Immune System regulating drugs; life expectancy after diagnosis is essentially normal for most.

NOTE: Life expectancy from time of diagnosis has increased over time as management and control of complications improved.
(Data based on research by: Loren A. Rolak, MD, Neurologist & Medical Historian, Marshfield MS Center, Marshfield, Wisconsin.)

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