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Did Mary Ingalls Have Multiple Sclerosis?

Remember the 1970s/’80s TV show “Little House on the Prairie,” based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” book series? The story is based on Wilder’s own life in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Walnut Grove, Minnesota.

One of the true-life shocking stories in her series is that her sister Mary became blind after contracting scarlet fever. Mary was only a teenager when it happened.

I can’t help but wonder if Mary Wilder had MS. Her scarlet fever was perhaps a precursor: She may have developed optic neuritis, which became total blindness. Optic neuritis is the inflammation of the optic nerve, so it can cause partial or full blindness in an eye that is affected. If this happened to Mary, she would have had a very severe case of optic neuritis.

It’s an intriguing thought. Researchers are still trying to pin down what health issue, or issues, may contribute to developing multiple sclerosis. One popular theory is that MS develops due to slow-growing viruses, and one virus that tends to get the most blame is the Epstein-Barr virus.

What Causes Scarlet Fever?

Scarlet fever, however, is caused by a bacterial infection, not a viral infection. The bacterium is Streptococcus pyogenes, and the fever almost always develops in a child who has strep throat.

Scarlet fever usually afflicts children between the ages of 5 and 15, according to the Mayo Clinic. Kids pick it up easily when someone with the bacteria in their system sneezes or coughs, and the droplets can spread the bacterial infection to others.

Multiple Sclerosis and the Streptococcal Bacteria

Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000, I’ve met a number of people with MS, and several of them had scarlet fever when they were young like I did. Interestingly, all of those who had scarlet fever also have the B blood type like I do – and this connection is addressed in Game Over, MS. There is perhaps a vulnerability, or susceptibility, shared with scarlet fever and MS.

People are usually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in their 20s or 30s; I was diagnosed at age 29. But with the latest developments in modern medicine, I would have been given a preliminary diagnosis at age 25. That was when I had optic neuritis that caused partial blindness in my left eye for five months.

It intrigued me to find out that researchers are considering “slow-growing viruses” as a possible cause to MS, because in my case it’s probably rather a latent bacterium in my system that was left over from my strep throat and scarlet fever at age six. So I can see how MS researchers are hard-pressed to find one singular cause.

Optic Neuritis and MS

In Mary’s case, the bacterial infection from the scarlet fever may have taken its toll on her vision. If her blindness was indeed caused by optic neuritis, it caused permanent damage to her optic nerves.

They didn’t have medicine available yet in the 1800s and early 1900s to properly treat this condition. Some people who have MS have one symptom, or exacerbation, and no more. And this may have been what happened to Mary Ingalls.

Healing Multiple Sclerosis

If you have multiple sclerosis, there is a simple, multi-pronged solution to keeping it tamped down. And the solution doesn’t suggest that you eat less fat, less sugar, fewer calories, or get more exercise! On the contrary, part of the solution involves eating chocolate every day to maintain a healthy body.

The SYSTEMS solution is delineated in the book Game Over, MS. So grab your favorite chocolate bar and read about how you can keep your MS a best-kept secret!



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