Clinical Specialties : Multiple Sclerosis Division

Multiple Sclerosis Patient Information

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, sometimes disabling disease of the central nervous system, the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Over 400,000 people in the United States are affected by the disease, which affects each patient differently. In MS, myelin is lost in multiple areas, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis. These damaged areas are also known as plaques or lesions. When myelin or the nerve fiber is destroyed or damaged, the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical messages to and from the brain is disrupted, and this produces the various symptoms of MS.

Considered a lifelong disorder, the disease most often strikes between the ages of 20 and 40 and affects women more often than men. The disease is variable in its severity with mild disease sometimes not recognized and severe disease shortening longevity. Most patients, however, have intermediate disease severity which can be controlled with treatment.
Causes of Multiple Sclerosis

The causes of multiple sclerosis are not yet known but scientists theorize that it is the result of a virus or autoimmune condition in which the body becomes allergic to itself.

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms:

  • Vision impairment or dizziness
  • Tingling and numbness of the skin and limbs
  • Loss of coordination and difficulty with walking
  • Weakness and exhaustion
  • Stiff muscles
  • Memory loss
  • Depression

Patients with multiple sclerosis can go into remission, experiencing none of the typical symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and function normally for long periods of time. Other patients continually experience symptoms in varying degrees. Multiple sclerosis is not a fatal disease but its symptoms can greatly impact the person’s quality of life.

Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis:

Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can be difficult because the symptoms of the disease can be very mild or non-existent and are similar to those of many other diseases. Multiple sclerosis diagnosis is often done through a review of the patient’s health history, a physical evaluation and various laboratory tests.

Multiple Sclerosis Treatment:

Until 1993, only symptomatic treatment was available for patients with MS. The introduction of human interferon Beta 1b as treatment for the disease heralded a new era of modification of the immune system to reduce exacerbations. Today, there are at least 6 additional agents including non-injectable oral therapies. Better diagnostic tools have facilitated early diagnosis and early introduction of treatment have both reduced long term disability.