Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease caused when the body’s immune cells attack the central nervous system. MS causes damage to both the myelin sheath, which surrounds nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord, and the nerve fibers themselves. Damage to this sheath causes nerve impulses to slow down or stop while destruction of the nerve fibers may lead to persistent neurologic impairment.
Common symptoms include blurred vision, pain and vision loss, difficulty walking and numbness or pain. Many people also experience impaired concentration, attention, memory and judgment.
MS affects more women than men, and is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50 years, however MS can appear at any age. The disease is estimated to affect over 400,000 people in the US, and is the most common cause of non-traumatic central nervous system impairment in young and working age adults.
The initial cause of MS is unknown. Genetic, environmental, and infectious factors may be important in the disease process. Those with a family history of MS have a higher risk of getting the disease.
Northwestern Medicine diagnoses MS by examining the patient’s mental, emotional and language functions, movement and coordination ability, balance and senses.
There is no cure for MS at this time, however, treatments can optimize function and quality of life such as medication, steroid agents, plasmapheresis therapy, participation in clinical trials, assistive technology and rehabilitation.
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