Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis

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In multiple sclerosis, the protective coating on nerve fibers (myelin) is damaged and may eventually be destroyed. Depending on where the nerve damage occurs, MS can affect vision, sensation, coordination, movement, and bladder and bowel control.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).

In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.

Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.

There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.

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In multiple sclerosis, the protective coating on nerve fibers (myelin) in the central nervous system becomes detached and eventually destroyed. This creates a lesion that may cause numbness, pain or tingling in parts of the body.

Multiple sclerosis signs and symptoms may differ greatly from person to person and over the course of the disease depending on the location of affected nerve fibers. They may include:

See a doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms for unknown reasons.

Most people with MS have a relapsing-remitting disease course. They experience periods of new symptoms or relapses that develop over days or weeks and usually improve partially or completely. These relapses are followed by quiet periods of disease remission that can last months or even years.

Small increases in body temperature can temporarily worsen signs and symptoms of MS, but these aren’t considered disease relapses.

About 60 to 70 percent of people with relapsing-remitting MS eventually develop a steady progression of symptoms, with or without periods of remission, known as secondary-progressive MS.

The worsening of symptoms usually includes problems with mobility and gait. The rate of disease progression varies greatly among people with secondary-progressive MS.

Some people with MS experience a gradual onset and steady progression of signs and symptoms without any relapses. This is known as primary-progressive MS.

The cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown. It’s considered an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. In the case of MS, this immune system malfunction destroys myelin (the fatty substance that coats and protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord).

Myelin can be compared to the insulation coating on electrical wires. When the protective myelin is damaged and nerve fiber is exposed, the messages that travel along that nerve may be slowed or blocked. The nerve may also become damaged itself.

It isn’t clear why MS develops in some people and not others. A combination of genetics and environmental factors appears to be responsible.

These factors may increase your risk of developing multiple sclerosis:

People with multiple sclerosis also may develop:

Multiple sclerosis care at Mayo Clinic

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Multiple sclerosis

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