Facts and Definition of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that results from damage to myelin, the tissues surrounding nerves of the brain and spinal cord.
- Damage to the myelin is a result of an autoimmune disease in which the body produces an immune response against its own tissues.
- Multiple sclerosis is more common in women than in men.
- Symptoms and signs of MS are extremely variable and range from mild to severe, and may include:
- Problems with balance when walking
- Hearing loss
- Facial pain
- Muscle spasms that cause pain.
- Tingling or numbness
- Urinary problems
- Some people with MS may have no symptoms to mild symptoms; about 30% of those affected will have significant disability after 20-25 years with the condition.
- The average age of onset for MS is about 34 years of age; but children and teens also get the condition.
- There is no cure for MS, but disease-modifying drugs can reduce the symptoms, delay disability, and reduce progression of the condition as seen on MRI.
What Is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) can be thought of as an immune-mediated inflammatory process involving different areas of the central nervous system (CNS) at various points in time. As the name suggests, the condition affects many areas of the central nervous system or CNS. Normal nerves are surrounded by a myelin sheath to insulate and protect them from damage. This sheath also allows effects how fast nerve signals get from the brain or spinal cord (CNS) to the affected body part. As this sheath is destroyed, the nerve conduction to that body area or part decreases or is interrupted completely. The destruction is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the myelin sheath. The reason that the body’s immune system attacks the sheath is not understood fully, but it is believed to be related to a combination of a genetic predisposition and acquired or environmental influences.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
The signs and symptoms of MS in adults, children, and teens are similar; however, children and teens with the disease (pediatric MS) also may have seizures and complete lack of energy that adults with MS do not experience. Moreover, symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis differ from person to person. Visual, sensory, and motor signs and symptoms are all part of MS; however, there is a wide range of symptoms that can appear. Some people have mild cases of MS with little or no disability over the years. Others have more severe types of MS, requiring confinement to a wheelchair or bed.