Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often disabling, inflammatory neurological disorder of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves). MS damages the protective insulation (called myelin) that surrounds the nerves and may also damage the nerves. This process is called demyelination and scarring often occurs as the disease progresses. MS interferes with the ability of nerve cells to communicate with each other, producing a variety of symptoms.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS may affect nearly 1 million adults in the United States and more than 2.3 million people worldwide. Most diagnoses are made between the ages of 20 and 50, and women are at least two to three times more likely to have MS than men.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, while the cause of MS is still unknown, scientists believe that the interaction of several different factors may be involved, including:
MS symptoms vary in type, severity and duration from one individual to another, depending on the amount of damage and the specific nerves affected.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms include:
The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable, varying from person to person and from time to time in the same person. Multiple sclerosis symptoms often come and go, sometimes disappearing for extended periods of time before recurring. Most patients have episodic patterns of attack and remission throughout the course of the disease, while others may have a form of the disease that progresses more slowly.
Multiple sclerosis is one of the most common disorders of the central nervous system in younger adults, affecting three times as many women as men.
At this time, there is no single, definitive laboratory test to diagnose MS and no cure for the disease. To diagnose MS, your doctor performs a neurologic examination and review of your medical history.
If you are living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), you know it can make your daily activities difficult. The varied and sometimes unpredictable nature of the illness means that the physical, psychological and neuropsychological implications can be different for each patient. It is important to identify an appropriate course of treatment that is developed for your specific symptoms.
Read more about Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Treatment and Rehabilitation »
Jerry Wolinsky, MD, discusses the latest therapies, symptoms, why it takes so long for discoveries to get from the laboratory to the clinic and what new innovations are on the horizon.
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