HEALTHY LIVING
04/08/2013 06:22 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2013

Multiple Sclerosis: Annette Funicello, Former Mouseketeer, Dies From Complications Of The Disease

Annette Funicello, beloved for her role on "The Mickey Mouse Club" more than half a century ago, has died at age 70 after experiencing complications from multiple sclerosis, according to news reports.

People reported that Funicello was in a coma, and had been on life support before she died.

"She's on her toes dancing in heaven. No more MS," her daughter, Gina Gilardi, told Extra, as reported by People magazine. "My brothers and I were there, holding her sweet hands when she left us."

The Los Angeles Times reported that Funicello was originally diagnosed with MS in 1987. People reported that she first started experiencing symptoms of MS when she was filming "Back to the Beach." In 1992, Funicello finally announced her diagnosis to the public.

Multiple sclerosis is a condition where the body's immune system attacks the myelin sheath, which protects nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord, according to the National Institutes of Health.

More than 2.1 million people around the world have multiple sclerosis, and the condition can begin at virtually any age -- the National Multiple Sclerosis Society said that it's been seen from ages 2 to 75. However, it's usually diagnosed when a person is between ages 20 and 50. Multiple sclerosis won't necessarily make a person's life shorter, but it can affect the quality of life through its symptoms, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Symptoms are not the same from person to person; they can be mild in one person, and severe in another. But generally, they include fatigue, tremors, muscle stiffness, numbness or pain, depression, bladder issues, weakness, vision problems, memory problems and sensitivity to heat, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, and the only treatments available are meant to slow the progression of the disease and to manage symptoms, the Mayo Clinic reported.

Funicello's exact complications from multiple sclerosis were not reported, but common complications include epilepsy, depression, memory problems, paralysis, muscle spasms and bladder or bowel problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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