Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, degenerative, immune-mediated inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. The body’s immune system attacks and damages certain structures and cells within the central nervous system, including the myelin (the fatty sheath that surrounds and protects nerve fibers), the oligodendrocytes (myelin-producing cells), and the underlying nerve fibers. This damage interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord and other parts of the body.
MS affects over 400,000 individuals in the United States and about 2.1 million worldwide. While individuals of all ages are affected by MS, it is more commonly diagnosed in young adults, particularly women, between the ages of 20 and 40.
Symptoms of Multiple Schlerosis:
- Bladder control
- Cognitive problems
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Muscle weakness
- Problems with vision and speech
- Sensations such as numbness, prickling, or “pins and needles”
- Thinking and memory problems
- Trouble with coordination and balance
- Visual disturbances
There is no single test for MS. Doctors use a medical history, physical exam, neurological exam, MRI, and other tests to diagnose it. There is no cure for MS, but medicines may slow it down and help control symptoms. Physical and occupational therapy may also help.
The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis often requires two or more clinically distinct episodes of
central nervous dysfunction with at least partial resolution between episodes. As such, the first
medical encounter for a patient with symptoms of a demyelinating episode suggestive of MS may
be characterized and recorded as a nonspecific or “other demyelinating disease of the central
It is very difficult to predict disease course in individual cases of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Currently there is no cure for MS. Many individuals do well with no therapy at all, especially since many medications have serious side effects and some carry significant risks. The drugs that are available, called MS modifying treatments, try to prevent the progression of the disease but they don’t reverse it. Instead, the drugs mostly modulate the immune system to avoid further attacks or treat symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and bladder issues that are caused by the damage.
No one knows what causes MS. It may be an autoimmune disease, which happens when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Multiple sclerosis affects women more than men. It often begins between the ages of 20 and 40. Usually, the disease is mild, but some people lose the ability to write, speak, or walk.