What is Multiple Sclerosis(MS)?
MS is an incurable autoimmune disease, meaning it is caused by the immune system attacking one’s own body. In other words, the immune system attacks the myelin sheath, the electrical insulator of the nerves. This causes inflammation and degeneration of the myelin sheath and the nerves of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
MS can have a wide range of symptoms, depending on what part of the brain or spinal cord is being attacked. Often those symptoms include:
- Sensory disturbance (numbness or tingling in different parts of the body
- Bladder/bowel dysfunction
- Loss of vision / double vision
- Limb weakness
- Muscle stiffness/spasms
- Ataxia (loss of coordination)
- Cognitive deficits (problems with planning, thinking, and learning)
Generally, people initially have the relapsing-remitting MS (MS symptoms that come and go) and, over time, enter a progressive phase (MS symptoms that no longer improve and only worsen). Relapses can range from hours to weeks.
MS is one of the most common disabilities for younger adults. It is usually diagnosed in people in their 20s-30s and is 2-3 times more common in women than men. Although MS has no cure yet, the NHS recommends self-care, regular reviews with your medical team, eating healthy and exercising (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/multiple-sclerosis/living-with/) as methods to slow down the progression of MS. Research has shown that exercise is the most efficient measure in dealing with deterioration symptoms caused by MS. Exercise significantly reduces fatigue and improves strength, mobility, and bowel and bladder function. However, it can be difficult and frustrating for MS patients with sensory disturbances to exercise if they cannot feel the floor well.
Being in contact with the care team and going to regular checkups is a good opportunity for MS patients to discuss their current treatment, mention any new problems, discuss any further support and keep informed about any new treatments that become available.
Disruptions such as the COVID-19 pandemic can make it hard, especially for those with immune disorders, to get to clinics and feel safe there. That’s where Path Feel steps in. Path Feel is a pair of smart gait-monitoring insoles paired with an app, Path Insight. Path Feel uses its pressure sensors, IMUs, and specialized AI to spot which MS patients are at risk of falls and whether their gait has suddenly changed (due to a relapse). If an MS patient has a gait-affecting relapse, the insoles will immediately notify their healthcare professional via Path Insight, allowing them to personalise treatment and appointment times. Additionally, Path Insight will provide users with regular cognitive tests and mental health questionnaires, allowing their doctors to see if they are having any cognitive/mental health symptoms. Finally, Path Feel’s vibratory motors provide haptic feedback to the sole of users’ feet, meaning they enhance the sensation of the floor for those with sensory disturbances. This will improve MS patients’ balance, encouraging them to stay independent and active.