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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. 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

Treatments for spasticity and pain in multiple sclerosis: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Beard S, Hunn A, Wight J.  Treatments for spasticity and pain in multiple sclerosis: a systematic review. Health Technology Assessment 2003; 7(40): 1-124

[Multiple sclerosis and relaxation techniques]

Bibliographic details: Molina-Rueda F, Perez de la Cruz S.  [Multiple sclerosis and relaxation techniques]. [Esclerosis multiple y tecnicas de relajacion.] Revista Iberoamericana de Fisioterapia y Kinesiologia 2009; 12(1): 28-34

The case for vitamin D supplementation in multiple sclerosis

Bibliographic details: Ganesh A, Apel S, Metz L, Patten S.  The case for vitamin D supplementation in multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders 2013; 2(4): 281-306 Available from: http://www.msard-journal.com/article/S2211-0348(13)00002-3/abstract

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Summaries for consumers

Comparing Drugs for Multiple Sclerosis

How do disease-modifying drugs compare in multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis: What advantages or disadvantages does fampridine (Fampyra) have?

The drug fampridine (trade name Fampyra) was approved in Germany in July 2011 for patients who have a walking disability as a result of multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis: What are the advantages or disadvantages of a cannabis extract (Sativex)?

An extract from the plant Cannabis sativa (trade name Sativex) was approved in Germany in May 2011 for patients who have moderate to severe spastic paralysis and muscle spasms due to multiple sclerosis.

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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.
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 9
Autoimmune Disease, Axons, Demyelination

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