The last few weeks have witnessed an usurping rise in individuals douching themselves in ice cold water (often encompassing a bucket, overgrown cup, kitchen utensils and the like) across social media apparently in an effort to raise awareness on neurodegenerative disorder commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease (or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as the bucket challengers lovingly call it nowadays). The effervescent question whether it did manage to effectively raise social awareness or narcissist self promotion, this article does not attempt to answer that.
ALS is relatively new to the domain of clinical-charitable enterprise. The biggest member of this neuronal disorder family, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), albeit, more prevalent and more popular, unfortunately never got such attention. Both diseases, MS and ALS affect the Central Nervous System (CNS) and muscular coordination, but have distinct differences in treatment, progression, social perception and the number of non-affected individuals douching themselves over self shot videos.
While MS is more prevalent, it is considered less fatal than ALS. Chances of complete paralysis or similar complete bed-ridden situation does not necessarily occur in MS, which is more mental disorder symptom which affects conscious cognitive functioning of the brain and spinal cord, destroying the immunity of the individual. In addition, ALS being progressive, it can be monitored and detected; MS has a plethora of symptoms, so vast that it can affect pretty much any nerve in the organ system and much unlike ALS it can happen on/off. hence cannot be symptomatically supervised.
If one has to imagine what happens inside the human body during MS, then think of an electrical wire. The inner metal core or the actual wire is the main source of transmission of charge. The outer plastic covering is akin to what we call a fatty layer around the inner core, something we refer to as myelin. This fatty layer, had it not been around our nerve ‘core’s then in order to have the same speed of charge movement as it is with the encompassing layer, then possibly the size of the nerve would have to be as thick as a tree trunk. MS is loss of this myelin sheath, at places as well as across the nerve, hence terribly compromising the movement of charges through the nerve fibres.
So, if MS and ALS are fundamentally so similar yet different, why do we need to talk about them in the same context? The answer lies perhaps beyond the realm of buckets and ice. While ALS can number around 5000 cases per year in US alone, the numbers for MS is a startling 200 new cases each week, making it around a hundred thousand per year. So, this disease is seriously big. And it happens primarily in caucasian populace.
So, is there anything that we can possibly figure out from the ALS social cataclysm that can possibly help this other neurodegenerative crisis as well. Being autoimmune in nature a disease like this perhaps never really gets ‘cured’, leaving behind mentally and physically compromised individuals who need not only medication but immense care. A huge amount of money gets involved both in fundamental research, clinical endeavours as well as after care of affected individuals. This money primarily comes from charitable resources and a very small amount from government research funding as myelination disorders are extremely fundamental disease models.
Yes. You read it right. It won’t make it worth putting forward another bucket challenge for MS as a follow up. But now that the ice cold water has aroused many of our nerves on the futility of neurodegenerative diseases, lets spare a thought for MS as well. And it isn’t monetary donations only that can help. Looking up and contacting one’s nearest MS centre (can look up Myelin Repair Foundation, MS Australia and the like) and offering volunteering service can also count.
Lets ‘socially’ take up the challenge and ‘bucket’ our share of concern.