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Multiple Sclerosis (MS Symptoms, Causes, and Life Expectancy)

Multiple sclerosis (MS) quick facts

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) 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, it's considered to be an autoimmune disease.
  • Risk factors for the disease include being between 15-60 years of age; women have about two to three times the risk for multiple sclerosis than men.
  • Multiple sclerosis symptoms and signs depend on where the nerves are demyelinated and may include:
  • There are four types of MS:
    1. Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS),
    2. Secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS), the most common type
    3. Primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS)
    4. Progressive-relapsing multiple sclerosis (PRMS)
  • There is no one test to diagnose MS. Doctors and other health care professionals diagnose the disease 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.
  • Treatment options include:
    • IV steroids
    • interferon injections (Rebif)
    • glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)
    • dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera
    • Many others, depending on the patient's symptoms.
  • Most people with MS have a normal life expectancy. Those that don't get treatment may develop mobility dysfunction while those with the severe progressive forms may develop complications like pneumonia.
  • Currently, there's nothing you can do to prevent getting MS.
  • Research is ongoing into developing new medications, immune system modifications, and other ways to identify potential causes of MS.
Reviewed on 3/16/2017

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