Multiple Sclerosis or MS is thought to be an autoimmune inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. This means that instead of fighting infections, certain immune cells start to attack the lining and nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. The symptoms or manifestations of MS can be very different in different people depending on what part of the brain or spinal cord is involved. Symptoms of MS are non-specific but can include numbness in face or limbs, loss of vision, double vision, imbalance, coordination problems, weakness in one or more limbs, difficulty walking or bowel or bladder difficulties, fatigue, depression and pain or headaches.
Multiple sclerosis affects about twice as many women as men. It usually starts between ages 23-30 but can be seen in children or older adults. MS varies widely geographically. It is more common in Europe (including Russia), southern Canada, northern United States, New Zealand, and southeast Australia. In the US, MS affects 0.1 percent of the population, for a total of 250,000 people. Genetic factors and environmental factors appear to contribute to the pathogenesis and risk of MS. The risk of developing MS if you have a sibling with MS is about 3 to 5 percent. There is no association between vaccines and developing MS.
Progression of disability due to MS is highly variable, but evidence suggests that progression in most patients with MS is slow. Multiple sclerosis is most commonly characterized by a relapse, which is defined as the acute onset of clinical dysfunction that usually reaches its peak from days to several weeks, followed by a remission during which the symptoms resolve to a variable extent. People who have MS do better the earlier they are diagnosed and start treatment.
Multiple sclerosis can be a terrifying and debilitating disease but has many treatment options. If you or someone you know is concerned about MS like symptoms, please call and make an appointment for a full evaluation.