Multiple Sclerosis Overview
Multiple sclerosis or MS is a chronic and progressive disease of the central nervous system, including the spinal cord and brain. The exact cause is not known but thought to be the result of genetics plus environmental factors. While MS is not curable, there are medications that can help slow progression.
MS is autoimmune, meaning a disease in which the body mistakes its own healthy cells as foreign cells that need to be destroyed. In Multiple Sclerosis the immune cells attack the myelin sheath surrounding the nerve fibers. The myelin sheath is the insulation that surrounds the nerves and allows the messages between nerves or “nerve impulses” to move faster. As the disease progresses, the nerves become perminately damaged and communication between the brain and body is hindered. Brains of patients with MS show infiltration of T cells and macrophages, along with myelin breakdown and degeneration of axons.
The typical onset of symptoms occur from age 20-50 but can develop at any age. Around 30% of patients will develop a significant disability that affects everyday life within 20-30 years from onset. Around 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people worldwide are diagnosed with MS. With women 3x as likely to develop MS than men.