Condition: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a brain and nerve disease where the immune system attacks the fatty material that wraps around nerves.
Background: About 400,000 Americans and 2.5 million people worldwide have MS. It usually gets worse over time and there is no cure, but there are treatments that can slow the disease.
Risk Factors: The cause of MS is not known. MS is more common in women than men and in white people compared to other races. It is also more common where the weather is cold and humid such as in northern states and Canada. MS usually affects young adults but it may also be seen in children.
History and Symptoms: MS varies from person to person. At first, people with MS often have tingling or numbness, weak or stiff muscles, trouble walking, or vision or speech problems. Fatigue, trouble thinking, and bladder and bowel problems are common. There are different types of MS. The most common is called RRMS (relapsing-remitting) where symptoms may disappear and then come back again. Later on, many people shift to a type called SPMS where symptoms keep getting worse. The most severe types affect about 15% of people with MS.
Physical Exam: The doctor will check vision, thinking, reflexes, and whether you can feel different sensations.
Diagnostic Process: A spinal tap and an MRI of the brain and spinal cord will probably be done to look for signs of MS.
Rehab Management: Steroids may be given for a short time when symptoms are very bad. For long-term treatment, there are several drugs that slow the disease. They are used along with other therapies to help relieve symptoms.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: Family support is very important to help patients cope with the condition and stick to their treatment plan.