Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological condition in young adults in the USA, affecting around 350,000 people.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The disease process is one of episodes where white matter within the brain or spinal cord becomes inflamed and then destroyed by the person's own immune system. These inflamed areas become scarred, giving the disease its name: multiple areas of hardening (sclerosis) within the brain or spinal cord. Many of these episodes do not cause any symptoms, but when sudden symptoms occur the person is said to have had a relapse.

MS can occur at any age, but symptoms are mostly first seen between the ages of 20 and 40. Women are more than twice as likely to develop MS as men. MS is a lifelong condition, but it is not terminal. Most people with MS can expect to live as long as someone without the condition. However, about 20% of patients with MS have a considerably shortened life.

There are three main types of MS:

  • Relapsing MS

    Relapsing MS symptoms come and go. Periods of good health or remission are followed by sudden symptoms or relapses

  • Secondary progressive MS

    Secondary Progressive MS follows on from relapsing MS. There are gradually more or worsening symptoms with fewer remissions an estimated 50% of those with relapsing/remitting MS develop secondary progressive MS during the first 10 years of their illness.

  • Primary progressive MS

    Primary progressive MS from the beginning, symptoms gradually develop and worsen over time (10 to 15% of people at onset).

MS usually starts in early adult life. Once present the disease never goes away; there is no cure and the person lives with the diagnosis for life. For many people with MS, the disease causes little trouble, but for others it causes problems that can affect all aspects of their own life and that of their family.

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