Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system and is the most common neurological disorder in young adults. It is a chronic disease that is often disabling but isn’t fatal. Most people with MS live productive lives and learn to cope with their symptoms and limitations.
Although the exact cause is unknown, current medical opinions are that it is an abnormal response of the body’s immune system, causing it to attack itself—also known as an autoimmune disease. When the body’s myelin (a rich layer of special fatty substances around each nerve fiber) repairs itself, it is scarred—this destruction of myelin is called demyelination. Demyelination can cause nerves to signal each other abnormally, which produces the symptoms of MS.
MS symptoms can include loss of balance and coordination, blurred vision or blindness, problems speaking, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, memory loss and difficulty concentrating, paralysis, and more. Symptoms vary from person to person, and people with MS can experience one of four courses of the disease. The National MS Society website outlines each of the four courses:
- Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)
- Primary Progressive MS (PPMS)
- Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS)
- Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS)
Scientists are working to develop therapies to alter the loss of myelin. While there is no known cure at this time, there are ways to treat and manage symptoms, including medication, rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes.
One way to treat relapsing forms of MS is through disease-modifying drugs. You can also treat exacerbations using high-dose corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. Rehabilitation, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy, can help you improve overall physical and mental health and strengthen functional abilities. The National MS Society website has more detailed information about treatment options.
- Paralyzed Veterans Consumer Guides and publications
- Multiple Sclerosis Association of America
- Multiple Sclerosis Q&A: Reassuring Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
- National MS Society
- The First Year: Multiple Sclerosis: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed