Packing 20 years of MS into 31 days — Day 4

The History of Multiple Sclerosis

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Prior to the mid-1830s, multiple sclerosis was not acknowledged as a disease to be treated medically. Earlier than that, people exhibiting symptoms of what we now know as multiple sclerosis were treated as abominations, witches, and demons. As recently as the 1950s MS was treated as a psychotic condition and actually treated with shock therapy.

The fact that symptoms come and go combined with the wide variety and unpredictability of symptoms, has made MS a difficult disease to recognize, define, and treat — right from the start. Since the late 1300s, individuals with a progressive illness suggestive of MS have been observed. In 1868 neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot lectured on the features of MS and gave it a name.

Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, hundreds of therapies were tried, without success, in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Poisonous plants such as Nightshade, arsenic, mercury, and the injection of malaria parasites, are just a few examples of the types of ineffective and even dangerous therapies that were once given to individuals with MS. Bee venom (BVT) is still used as an alternative treatment for several neurological conditions and some folks believe in “shocking” themselves with electricity to cure MS.

I attended college in the early ’80s, just thirty minutes from our state mental hospital where shock treatments and even lobotomies were conducted just years before. That hospital is now one of the most popular tourist attractions for ghost hunters. Creepy!

In 1951, cortisone (a steroid) was first used to treat MS. Cortisone was found to reduce the severity of the relapse and to shorten its duration, but it had no long-term effects on the disease and even today reactions differ severely.

My experience with steroid therapy has always been positive to the point where it makes sense to me it is an important ingredient in MS treatment. A good friend of mine has an opposite reaction and hates steroids. Where she gains weight and developed emotional issues while on steroid treatments, I gain stamina and experience a sense of overall physical improvement; once again proving that we are all different.

As with any misunderstood condition, there will always be crazy theories (or are they?) for reaching physical and mental comfort.

Do your research. Experiment safely with treatments. Talk to other MS Warriors. No two people are the same in this Snowflake disease, but I believe keeping communication open is essential in fighting this battle.

We all have a story to tell and that story can help someone else understand more fully what is happening to them in this, the MS journey.


The Lady With the Cane



July 1, 2001, six months after the birth of my only child, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

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July 1, 2001, six months after the birth of my only child, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.