What is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic disease affecting the central nervous system.

What is MS_photo iconWhat is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic demyelination and often disabling disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Usually, the nerves of the CNS, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves, are surrounded by a fatty insulating material called myelin that helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses.  In MS, this myelin is damaged, forming scar tissue called sclerosis. The damaged myelin which can be found throughout the CNS alters and interrupts signals that are sent back and forth between the brain and spinal cord. This results in a range of unpredictable symptoms including numbness, inability to walk, impaired vision, cognitive dysfunction, bladder and bowel problems, extreme fatigue, blindness, and total paralysis.

Who Contracts MS?

MS affects nearly 500,000 people with 200 new cases reported each week in the US and over 2 million people worldwide. Young adults between the ages of 20 and 40 are the most susceptible to MS, and it is twice as common in women as men. MS occurrences are ten times higher for those living above the 40th parallel worldwide. Most scientists think the cause of MS is “multifactorial;” The person’s genetic heritage, gender, birthplace, age, and environment contribute to the susceptibility, resistance, and pattern of the course of MS.

Types of MS

Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS): Over 80 percent of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis begin with this type. In RRMS, people experience periods of relapse, in which they experience symptom flare ups, and remission.  The severity of relapse attacks varies as well as the duration of each period.

Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS): SPMS can be developed in people with RRMS. SPMS is characterized by periods of relapse and partial recovery. The symptoms do not completely fade away between cycles but instead advance until continuous progression takes the place of relapse and recovery cycles.

Primary-progressive MS (PPMS): PPMS is characterized by a gradual progression of symptoms. The rate of progression may vary over the course of time. There are no cycles of relapse and remission and no periods of decreasing intensity. About 15 percent of people with MS have PPMS.

Progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS): PRMS is the rarest form of MS in which people experience a steady worsening of the disease in addition to periods of acute flare ups. However, there are no periods of remission and recovery of the flare up may or may not occur.