All about gastrointestinal disorders
Why do they occur?
Digestive functions are controlled in part through nerve impulses that originate in the central nervous system.
As with all symptoms associated with MS, gastrointestinal disorders are the result of the degradation of the myelin sheath (insulating external layer that surrounds the nerve cells and fibers and allows them to function properly) and the nerve fibers themselves. This results in a corresponding degradation of the signal that is transmitted by the neurons (those responsible for carrying impulses from the brain and the spinal cord to the muscles of the intestine).
The demyelination that is characteristic of MS can interfere with the proper transmission of nerve impulses and, as a result, alter intestinal motility, thereby causing problems like constipation, diarrhea and incontinence, among others.
Constipation is a result of nervous system changes, which inhibit the proper functioning of the muscles needed for gastric motility. Weakness of the abdominal muscles or spasticity of the pelvic muscles are a couple of the causes of altered gastric motility.
On the other hand, diarrhea is due to excessive gastric motility and a failure to absorb the necessary amount of water to form the fecal bolus.
Lastly, fecal incontinence can be due to changes in the nerve impulses that control the sphincters, as also happens with urinary incontinence.
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