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Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) facts

  • Multiple sclerosis is a disease that causes demyelination (disruption of the myelin that insulates and protects nerve cells) of spinal nerve and brain cells.
  • Although the exact case is unknown, MS is considered to be an autoimmune disease.
  • Risk factors for the disease include being between 15-45 years of age; women have about two to three times the risk for MS than men.
  • Multiple sclerosis symptoms and signs depend on where the nerves are demyelinated and may include
  • There are four types of MS:
    • relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS,
    • the most common type), secondary-progressive MS (SPMS),
    • primary-progressive MS (SPMS), and
    • progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS).
  • MS is diagnosed by a patient's history, physical exam, and tests such as MRI, lumbar puncture, and evoked potential testing (speed of nerve impulses); other tests may be done to rule out other diseases that may cause similar symptoms.
  • Multiple sclerosis treatment options include
    • IV steroids,
    • interferon injections (Rebif),
    • glatiramer acetate (Copaxone),
    • dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera), and
    • many others, depending on the patient's symptoms.
  • Most MS patients have a normal life expectancy; untreated patients may develop mobility dysfunction while patients with the severe progressive forms may develop complications like pneumonia.
  • Ways to prevent getting MS have not been discovered.
  • Research is ongoing into developing new medications, immune system modifications, and other ways to identify potential MS causes.

What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease which causes demyelination of the brain and spinal cord nerve cells. When this occurs, axons (the parts of the nerve cells which conduct impulses to other cells), don't work as well. Myelin acts like insulation on electrical wires. As more areas or nerves are affected by this loss of myelin, patients develop symptoms because the impulses are diminished or lost. The specific symptom that someone experiences is related to the area of injury. In some cases, the axon of the nerve may be affected as well. As demyelination takes place, areas of inflammation and subsequent injury can be identified; these areas of injury are called lesions or plaques and are readily apparent on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies.

What causes multiple sclerosis?

While multiple sclerosis is considered an autoimmune disorder, the exact cause hasn't yet been found. There are many theories regarding the reason that people develop multiple sclerosis; these theories range from vitamin D deficiency to a viral infection. Even consuming too much salt is being looked at as possible cause of multiple sclerosis. However, these theories have not been proven. Multiple sclerosis is not a contagious condition and cannot be passed from person to person.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2015


Multiple Sclerosis

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