Posted by: Gavin Lehmann | June 18, 2009

Relapse earthquakes

Time to get back to some more MS related bloggings I think. I’d hope that you’ve got slightly more insight into what MS is like from my earlier post (science stuff coming later, promise) and you’ll probably realise that I’m a fan of the metaphor, so perhaps one more?

You may have heard someone with MS saying ‘It’s a really bad relapse’  or some other such stuff about a ‘relapse’. No, we’re not all recovering alcoholics (although you may think it of some people with MS, swaying as they walk (in fact I’ve had one incident where I fell over and someone asked “too much to drink last night?”)). A relapse is a flare up in someones symptom relating to their MS. It could be old symptoms rearing their hideous one eyed, three nosed balding face again or it could be some new dark, mysterious stranger who’s decided to drop by uninvited (they’ve no idea how long they’re going to be around for either, or if they’ll leave. They may just have a shit on your new rug and smash up the living room while they’re at it).

A relapse is a bit like an earthquake on your bodies imune system. The brain is the big capital city, the smaller cities are the other important bits (the eyes, bladder, bowels, touch right down to your sense of smell and taste), in fact just about EVERY bit of your body you can imagine. The roads and poper lines are your actual nerves(you’ve got a lot of nerves you know, probably a few more than me now too). So there’s the premise, the capital controls everything that happens in the country, and is dependent on the power lines and roads to keep everything running smoothly.

The earthquake happens and takes down a few roads. The messages to and from one city to the capital can still get through, they might just take a bit longer. They could get mudled up and travel the wrong way down a road and confuse the city, or a couple of phone wires get crossed from the damage caused. The workmen get started on repairing the damage, but if there’s a lot  it can take longer and messages might not be quite as quick anymore (or the phone lines could just get repaired shoddily, there can be a LOT to fix).

The country can get some help(steroids), extra electricians, plumbers and the like, to repair damage. They can only help to speed up the repairs, if something’s damaged irreprably then they can’t do much for it. Now we can’t forget about the aftershocks and you can get those with MS too. Not a new relapse as such but can still do just as much damage as the initial quake. If the country got some extra help they might still be about to help with the latest quake, or they could have gone home if it’s a while after the first quake.

Now if the quake hits the capital, and it only needs to be a little one, it can do all sorts of damage, or it can hit a more redundant area, just like a quake it’s a bit random. And thats it in a nutshell, you can never predict when the earthquake will strike, where it’ll hit or how big it’s going to be.

A spot of science mtaphor for you all.

Imagine a multicore cable (It’s a cable with many different individually wrapped wires in it)  each one of those little wires is one of your nerves. If you were to pour a high strength acid it would start corroding the cables, disolving the protective layers. This will cause signals being sent along them to get jumbled up. Now if you pour a strong alkaline (steroids) on that cable it can stop the damage BUT it may only geet the acid  on the surface and the acid withing the cable can happily go on damaging the cables underneath and this can cause an ‘aftershock’ on your immune system.

Hope that helps you understand a bit more.

Gav =)

PS, if you haven’t sponsored me for my walk yet, click here and do it now, cheers  😉



  1. That’s fabulous, thanks Gav.

    I have strong feelings for a guy who was diagnosed with MS about 2 years ago, it seems like a mild form.

    It’s very useful to know more about it in easy terms.

    I’m gonna bookmark this site for future reference.

    Take care, and stay well. x

    • Hey H,

      Glad I can be of some help (and someone’s actually reading this blog and I’m not just talking to myself!). It sucks to have MS, but attitude in life is everything 😉


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