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Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

A disorder of the central nervous system marked by weakness, numbness, a loss of muscle coordination, and problems with vision, speech, and bladder control. Multiple sclerosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system destroys myelin.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Multiple Sclerosis

An unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis (MS) can range from relatively benign to somewhat disabling to devastating, as communication between the brain and other parts of the body is disrupted. Many investigators believe MS to be an autoimmune disease - one in which the body, through its immune system, launches a defensive attack against its own tissues.

In the case of MS, it is the nerve-insulating myelin that comes under assault. Such assaults may be linked to an unknown environmental trigger, perhaps a virus.

Most people experience their first symptoms of MS between the ages of 20 and 40; the initial symptom of MS is often blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion, or even blindness in one eye.

Most MS patients experience muscle weakness in their extremities and difficulty with coordination and balance. These symptoms may be severe enough to impair walking or even standing. NIH - National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Treatment of seizures for patients with multiple sclerosis

Epileptic seizures occur in a relatively small number of patients with multiple sclerosis, but can have serious consequences. Because the cause of epileptic seizures in patients in MS may be different from that in other forms of epilepsy, it is uncertain whether patients with MS should be treated differently. We searched for studies on the treatment of epileptic seizures in patients with MS, but found none. Well designed studies that address this issue are needed.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which involves people breathing pure oxygen in a specially designed chamber, for the treatment of multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the nervous system which affects young and middle‐aged adults. Repeated damage to parts of the nerves leads to progressive weakness and disability. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves people breathing pure oxygen in a specially designed chamber (such as used for deep sea divers suffering pressure problems after resurfacing). HBOT is sometimes used for MS in case a lack of oxygen to the affected nerves may be making MS worse, but this theory is unproven. The review of nine trials found no consistent evidence that HOBT can improve disability or modify the progression of MS. There is little need for further research.

The effect of anti‐spasticity agents in people with multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the nervous system which affects young and middle‐aged adults. Spasticity, a common problem in people with MS, is a disorder of voluntary movement caused by damage to the central nervous system. The main sign is the resistance to passive movement of a limb but other associated features ‐ pain, spasms, loss of function ‐ affect people's quality of life more directly.

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Summaries for consumers

Comparing Drugs for Multiple Sclerosis

How do disease-modifying drugs compare in multiple sclerosis?

Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera) for multiple sclerosis: Overview

Dimethyl fumarate (trade name: Tecfidera) has been approved in Germany since January 2014 for adults with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.

Treatment of seizures for patients with multiple sclerosis

Epileptic seizures occur in a relatively small number of patients with multiple sclerosis, but can have serious consequences. Because the cause of epileptic seizures in patients in MS may be different from that in other forms of epilepsy, it is uncertain whether patients with MS should be treated differently. We searched for studies on the treatment of epileptic seizures in patients with MS, but found none. Well designed studies that address this issue are needed.

See all (76)

Terms to know

Autoimmune Disease
Disease that results when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues. Examples include multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Axons
Nerve fibers that are capable of rapidly conducting impulses away from the neuron cell body.
Demyelination
Damage caused to myelin by recurrent attacks of inflammation. Demyelination ultimately results in nervous system scars, called plaques, which interrupt communications between the nerves and the rest of the body.
Exacerbation
A period of heightened disease activity.
Immune System
The body's system for protecting itself from viruses and bacteria or any foreign substances.
Lesion
A lesion is any abnormality in the tissue of an organism ("damage"), usually caused by disease or trauma.
Myelin Sheath
A fatty covering that forms a protective sheath around nerve fibers and dramatically speeds the transmission of nerve signals.
Neurologist
A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nervous system.
Neurons (Nerve Cells)
A type of cell that receives and sends messages from the body to the brain and back to the body. The messages are sent by a weak electrical current. Also called nerve cell.
Plaque
In medicine, a small, abnormal patch of tissue on a body part or an organ. Plaques may also be a build-up of substances from a fluid, such as cholesterol in the blood vessels.

More about Multiple Sclerosis

Photo of an adult woman

See Also: Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, Secondary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

Other terms to know: See all 10
Autoimmune Disease, Axons, Demyelination

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