What is Multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most prevalent diseases of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and directly affects an estimated 2.5 million people around the world.

Myelin, one of the fatty substances that sheathe, insulate and protect nerve fibres, aids the rapid transmission of nerve signals throughout the body. It is the speed and efficiency with which these impulses are conducted that permits smooth, rapid and co-ordinated movements to be performed with little conscious effort. MS attacks this myelin, disrupting the ability of the nerves to transmit signals to and from the brain and producing the various symptoms of MS.

The sites where myelin is lost (plaques or lesions) appear as hardened (scar) areas. In MS these scars appear at different times and in different areas of the brain and spinal cord.

Quick Facts…

  • More women than men have MS, with a ratio of two men to three women affected.
  • Sclerosis means scars; these are the plaques or lesions in the brain and spinal cord.
  • MS is not directly hereditary, although genetic susceptibility plays a part in its development.
  • MS is not contagious.
  • There are a wide range of symptoms including fatigue, balance and co-ordination problems and visual and cognitive disturbances.
  • There is no drug that can cure MS, but treatments are now available which can modify the course of the disease.

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