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Sodium could build link to MS cures

A new research study may show new hope for multiple sclerosis patients in Pennsylvania. The study, released earlier this month, shows that multiple sclerosis (MS) is largely caused by buildups of sodium in brain tissue, information that could lead to better assessment and treatment options. That means that people with MS who currently collect Social Security Disability payments for their illness could receive improved medical care in the coming years.

Physicians say patients often suffer from anxiety with MS because doctors can rarely predict the course of the disease. MS is a disorder that causes the body's immune system to attack the protective coating that surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Electrical impulses cannot be reliably transmitted along those damaged nerves, and patients experience neurological and physical disabilities as a result.

In the most common type of MS, the disease attacks specific body functions for periods of time. Then, the symptoms stop, and the body goes through a type of recovery phase. Researchers examined patients with this variant of the disease.

The study attempted to discern whether sodium concentration could be connected to the severity of MS symptoms. Research shows that the amount of sodium built up in the brain can be directly related to the level of physical disability experienced by the patient. In other words, physicians can predict the level of disability a patient can expect based on their sodium levels. That is a huge step forward in developing better treatments for the disease, according to medical experts.

People with certain types of disabilities showed spots of sodium build-up, but patients who were generally immobile had brains that were largely sodium-logged, according to the study.

MS is a disabling condition that prevents thousands of Americans from going to work each year. It threatens their mobility and cognitive function. With new treatments that may spring from this new information, though, SSD recipients with MS could get their lives back.

Source: CBS 42, "Sodium buildup in brain linked to MS," July 17, 2012

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