I have an interest in old stuff. Pretty much anything old actually. I'm very easily amused. I have a pair of tableknockers. Bonus points for you if you know what those are. Amongst my antiquities are a Dick Tracy camera, a Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder badge, a gold and agate pendant (with a place for hair on the back side) made by the jeweller to Queen Victoria, and a few old books. Nothing I own is of great value except to collectors of those items, but to me they are interesting.
I was at the medical library in town one day several years ago, researching MS, and discovered a shelf of books being sold by the library. There was an almost entire set of medical encyclopedias and several other texts that grabbed my attention. $2. a volume....hmmmm. I bought the encyclopedia set, missing Volume 1 (so as long as I don't get arthritis I should be OK), and a couple of other books, then raced home before the library changed its mind.
The Encyclopaedia Medica was printed in 1901. The first thing I did was look up Multiple Sclerosis. It said See Paralysis. So over to that volume. and I found what I was looking for under Disseminated Sclerosis. Here's some of what they say:
-young adults are the most commonly affected between the ages of 20 and 30.
- it is quite exceptional for the disease to commence later than 40 (in 1900 only 50% of children born could expect to live to 50) or in children.
-one sex is as liable to be affected as the other.
--cause suspected included metallic poisoning, alcohol, fevers such as those induced by malaria and influenza, blows and injuries, exposure to cold and chills (the author points out the impossablity of proving these things as a cause of the disease, but points out that they definitely influence the course of the disease)
-pregnancy and delivery can exercise an unfavourable influence on the course of the disease.
-fatality is inevitable (though the author points out that nothing is more difficult to foretell than the probable duration of life)
-cases that show a tendency to remission of symptoms live longer.
So here we are more than 100 years later. We know this is mainly a disease with its onset in young adults (age 20-40). We know it occurs in children and in those over 40, but women are 3 times as likely to be affected as men. Pregnancy and delivery can affect the disease.
We still don't know the cause, but all those things listed above can affect the symptoms of the disease.
Treatment in 1901 consisted of the administration of silver in the form of nitrate or chloride and arsenic (!). Massage, hydropathic and electrical treatments are also suggested.
"Massage and passive movements improve the nutrition of the muscles...most patients bear cold badly...rest is essential...daily open air carriage or wheelchair exercise is no less important...depressing emotions, mental or physical fatigue, injury, exposure to wet and cold, and excesses of all kinds must be studiously avoided....female patients must be warned against pregnancy..."
We know that massage, hyrdopathic and electrical treatments can be beneficial. We know that rest is essential (I am the queen of napping).
In the Text Book of Nervous Diseases (published in 1898), it is much the same with a few notable exceptions. This volume says it occurs more frequently in the male sex and that "the sufferers have inheirited a feeble power of resistance on the part of the central nervous system." Treatment is pretty much the same with the added "use of iodide of potassium and bichloride of mercury".
All the things that we knew about the disease back then mostly still hold true today. You might be thinking that we don't know enough. True, we haven't figured out what causes MS and we still don't have a cure. But we understand the disease process much better, we have treatments that can slow down the progression of MS and reduce frequency and severity of relapses, we know that nutrition and exercise can aid in treatment of symptoms.
In university, a big question that students have is "What am I going to do when I grow up?". I used to tell fellow students that it was just as important to know what you didn't want to do as it was to figure out what you did want to do. In the past 100 years we have discovered what doesn't work for MS (like arsenic), and we will continue to make more of those discoveries before we discover what will work. I just wish it were faster.