Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. It is a chronic condition that can be disabling.
There are several types of MS:
The immune system normally attacks viruses or bacteria that should not be in the body. With MS, a problem with the immune system causes it to attack healthy nerves. In particular, MS attacks the nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord, and the nerves of the eye. The exact cause of these immune problems is unknown.
The following may contribute to the development of MS:
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MS is more common in women and in people aged 15-50 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of MS include:
Symptoms may range from mild to severe and may include:
Symptoms may worsen with:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
There is no cure for MS, you can manage the disease with medication, lifestyle changes, and counseling. Treatment will help relieve symptoms, prevent relapses, delay disability, and slow disease progression. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
Medications can help slow progress, prevent new lesions, and manage symptoms.
Types of medications that can slow the progression of MS or prevent new lesions from developing include:
Corticosteroids may be given to reduce inflammation during active phases. This may lessen the effects of the immune system on the nerve fibers and shorten the length of relapses.
Types of medications to help manage symptoms can include:
Other therapies may help relieve some physical and emotional symptoms of MS. Each therapy has unique benefits and potential side effects which may interfere with other therapies you are using. Work with your health care team to help find therapies that work best for you. Supportive therapies include:
Some alternative therapies that have shown some benefits for some include:
Talk to your doctor before you try any alternative therapies.
Individual or group therapy will help you learn coping strategies for physical symptoms and emotional stress.
Some forms of MS have periods remissions that alternate with relapses. Take these steps to help you avoid relapses and worsening of symptoms:
There are no current guidelines to prevent MS.
Multiple Sclerosis Association of America
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
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Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 11/9/2015