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Condition resources

Multiple sclerosis

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a long-term health issue of the nervous system, namely the brain and spinal cord. The nervous system is made up of nerve fibers that carry electrical impulses. These nerve fibers are wrapped in a fatty tissue called myelin. Think of myelin like the insulation on electrical wires. In people who have MS, the myelin becomes damaged and nerve signals slow down or get blocked. This means that the signaling between the brain the rest of the body can be interrupted in people who have MS.

Symptoms of MS may be mild or severe. Symptoms vary from person to person and may involve nerve pain, numbness in the hands, feet or legs, urinary incontinence, or constipation. Some patients may also get more severe symptoms such as losing the ability to see clearly, write, speak, or walk. Many people with MS don't become severely disabled, and most have a normal or near-normal lifespan.

More than 2.3 million people worldwide have MS. MS affects women more than men. Diagnosis most often occurs between the ages of 15 and 50. The course of this disease is described as relapsing, remitting or progressive. Yet, the course of MS is rarely predictable for one single patient. Researchers don't fully know what causes MS or why deciding the rate of progression is so hard. Studies show that genetic and certain environmental factors may make certain people more likely to get the disease. On a good note, we now have many medicines available that slow the progression of the disease.

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