In an interview with People Magazine, online Jan.20, actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler revealed that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of 20. Now, nearly 15 years later, she is finally able to discuss her condition publicly. This comes on the heels of her marriage to long-time fiancee Cutter Dykstra last Saturday.
Sigler told the magazine that walking requires her to think about every step. She cannot run and cannot walk for long periods without resting. After many types of medical treatments, her current medication, Tecfidera, has kept her symptoms stable for the last six years.
The actress’s breakout role was as Meadow Soprano on the hit drama The Sopranos. She was diagnosed not long after her role began and battled MS during the last six years that the show ran.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine describes multiple sclerosis as “a nervous system disease that affects your brain and spinal cord.” Something damages the myelin sheath which surrounds and protects nerves throughout the body. The reason for the condition is unknown. The transmission of nerve impulses is disrupted, leading to a variety of problems such as visual disturbances, muscle weakness and loss of control and cognitive problems.
There is no cure for MS, the American Academy of Neurology states. Treatment varies from patient to patient and some patients may have long periods where they are symptom free without any treatment. In other patients, the illness progresses rapidly and without remission.
A variety of drug treatments may be used though many come with serious side effects. Physical therapy and assistive devices such as canes or braces can be useful. The drug that Sigler uses has been found effective for some patients but, as the manufacturer states, “It is not known exactly how TECFIDERA works in the body…”
A study in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that a current cancer treatment may have a place in the treatment for multiple sclerosis. The treatment is called autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant and the BBC reported on it on Jan. 18.
The treatment involves using chemotherapy to destroy the patient’s existing immune system. Adult stem cells previously collected from that same patient’s blood are then transplanted into the patient’s bone marrow.
The study’s authors conclude
nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation was associated with improvement in neurological disability and other clinical outcomes
Additional research on this treatment for multiple sclerosis are underway but the results will not be published for some time.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler told People that her battle will continue. “It takes a fighting attitude to deal with all this. This disease can absolutely take over your life if you let it.”