Local neurologist applauds Selma Blair for courageously speaking out about multiple sclerosis diagnosis

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It was the Red Carpet accessory that got people talking.

Actress Selma Blair's cane at the Oscars started a national conversation about multiple sclerosis, a disease in which your own body attacks itself.

"In the case of MS, the cells that are being attacked are the brain cells and cells in the spinal cord," said Huntington Hospital neurologist, Dr. Yafa Minazad.

MORE: Selma Blair on why multiple sclerosis diagnosis caused tears of relief
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Through her difficulty speaking, Selma Blair told Robin Roberts of ''GMA'' that she wants to show what an aggressive form of MS looks like.


Minazad says this is due to damage of the myelin sheath surrounding the neurons, which she compares to the plastic cover that protects the copper wiring inside an electrical cord.

"As a result, the electrical current and electrical activity cannot happen in a smooth manner," she said.

These electrical malfunctions can cause various symptoms including trouble walking and talking, blurry vision and overwhelming fatigue. These symptoms depend on where the disease is in your nervous system.

Minazad said, "It's more common in women of childbearing age, but there are many components that are still being researched such as genetics, aging and environment. But, it is more common with women. "

Blair coming forward is helping to reduce the shame and stigma that comes with MS. The hope is that younger patients will be encouraged to speak to their doctors.
New evidence shows early, intensive treatment can slow the progression.

"Every time you have one of these attacks to the nervous system, its going to take a toll," Minazad said.

Disease-modifying drugs can help keep MS attacks under control and Minazad said physical and cognitive therapy can also help a great deal.

"There are many other layers that you can add that can help these patients live a reasonable and good life," she said.

Blair said it took years for her to get an accurate diagnosis, something quite common among MS patients.

About 2.3 million people worldwide suffer from MS. Minazad hopes more awareness will lead to faster diagnosis and better treatment.
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