What exactly is multiple sclerosis?
We asked the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes for some of our answers.
We know: All about Multiple Sclerosis
What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
MS is caused by the inflammation and scarring (sclerosis) of the myelin sheath (a fatty covering that surrounds and protects nerve fibers) and the underlying nerve. Myelin insures the swift transmission of nerve impulses from brain to muscle. When myelin is damaged, communication breaks down between the brain and muscle.
What causes Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease diagnosed primarily in adults between the ages of 20 and 50.
Doctors still don't know what causes MS. Exposure to a virus or other toxic or infectious agent in childhood might be the trigger for this abnormal autoimmune response.
What are some of the symptoms associated with Multiple Sclerosis?
Usually, MS begins as a series of attacks followed by complete or partial remissions. This is called relapsing-remitting MS. Some individuals will experience an initial attack and then a gradual worsening of symptoms with no remission. This is called chronic progressive MS.
Depending on the patient, the following symptoms may be evident:
What treatment is available for Multiple Sclerosis?
There is no cure for MS. Traditionally, anti-inflammatory corticosteroid drugs have been the principal medication since they reduce the duration and severity of attacks for most individuals. Doctors now also use a group of beta interferon drugs (such as Avonex, Betaseron, and Rebif) to delay disease progression.
There are additional treatments and medications that can relieve specific symptoms such as muscle stiffness and spasms, pain, or bowel and bladder incontinence. Statin drugs have recently been shown to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, but they have not yet been evaluated for treatment of MS in clinical trials.