Selma Blair bravely announced that she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As the ‘Cruel Intentions’ actress continues her fight against the disease, get all the facts about MS.
“I have had symptoms for years but was never taken seriously until I fell down in front of [a doctor] trying to sort out what I thought was a pinched nerve,” Selma Blair, 46, said on Oct. 20 after announcing she had multiple sclerosis. “I have probably had this incurable disease for 15 years at least. … I am in the thick of it but I hope to give some hope to others. And even to myself. You can’t get help unless you ask. It can be overwhelming in the beginning.” Selma became the latest high-profile star to reveal they have MS. As he continues to life her life to the fullest, get all the facts about what this disease means for Selma and the estimated 1 million people living with it in the U.S.
1. Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the central nervous system. A person’s central nervous system consists of their brain, their spinal cord and optic nerves. With MS, a person’s immune system attacks the protective sheath (called myelin) surrounding the nerve fibers, according to the Mayo Clinic. When the myelin or nerve fibers are damaged or destroyed, this causes communications problems between the brain and the rest of the body. This may produce a variety of neurological symptoms, depending on the type and severity of damage.
2. Symptoms include losing the ability to walk, slurred speech and more. The damaged areas develop scar tissue, which gives the disease its name – multiple areas of scarring or multiple sclerosis, per the National MS Society. The most common symptom are: fatigue; walking difficulties; numbness or tingling in the face, body or extremities; spasticity, aka involuntary muscle spasms; weakness; vision problems, including blurred vision, poor contrast, or pain on eye movement; dizziness; bladder and bowel problems; sexual dysfunction; pain; cognitive changes, including problems with processing incoming information, learning and remembering new information, and focus; emotional changes; and depression.
Less common symptoms include: speech problems, swallowing problems, tremors, seizures, breathing issues, itching, headaches and hearing loss.
3. The cause is unknown. Currently, what exactly causes MS is unknown. It’s believed that the disease is caused by genetic susceptibilities, abnormalities in the immune system and environmental factors. MS can occur at any age, but commonly affects people between the ages of 15 and 60. Women are twice as likely as men to develop it. Certain viruses have been linked to MS, according to the Mayo Clinic, including Epstein-Barr. White people of Northern European descent are at the highest risk of developing it, while people of Asian, African or Native American descent have the lowest risk.
4. There is no cure, but it can be treated. In order to treat the disease – to modify the disease course, treat relapses and manage symptoms – patients can undergo injectable, oral or infused medications. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has a list of medications that someone with MS can pursue in order to manage their symptoms. Additionally, a person can modify their lifestyle to get a handle on their disease. Eating a balanced diet, exercise, staying cool and stress-free is recommended.
5. Selma’s not the only famous person with MS. Almost 1 million people in the US have MS. Among those include celebrities like Montel Williams, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jack Osbourne, Mitt Romney’s wife Ann Romney, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, and country musician Clay Walker.