Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks its own central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain and spinal cord. It damages or destroys the myelin, a substance that surrounds and insulates the nerves, causing a distortion or interruption in nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain.
Who Can Get Multiple Sclerosis?
The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown, but it is believed to be any combination of immunologic, environmental, infectious, or genetic factors.
Multiple sclerosis is estimated to affect 2.3 million people worldwide. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40, though it can also occur in young children and the elderly. It is three times more common in women than in men and is more prevalent among Caucasians than other ethnicities.
What Are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis may be single or multiple and may range from mild to severe in intensity and short to long in duration. These include:
- Visual disturbances (blurred vision, color distortions, loss of vision, eye pain)
- Mental changes
- Numbness or tingling
- Limb weakness, loss of coordination and balance
- Dizziness or Vertigo
- Sexual dysfunction
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Prickling Pain
What Are the Types of Multiple Sclerosis?
Clinically isolated syndrom (CIS) is the result of a single episode of demyelination in one area of the central nervous system (a monofocal episode) or several areas of the central nervous system (a multifocal episode) which lasts for at least 24 hours.
Relapsing-Remitting (RR) MS is the most common type (85%). Symptoms can flare up (called relapses or exacerbations) unexpectedly, and then disappear (remission).
Progressive (PP) MS is characterized by steady worsening of neurologic functioning, without any relapses or remissions. There may be occasional plateaus, but overall the progression of the disability is continuous.