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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) FAQs

Reviewed by Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD

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Q:What kind of disease is multiple sclerosis?

A:An autoimmune disease. Multiple sclerosis or MS, is an autoimmune disease. A healthy, functioning immune system seeks to protect the body by attacking foreign bodies and substances; autoimmune diseases occur when the body's immune system attacks itself. With MS, the immune system attacks the body's tissues (brain and spinal cord myelin is damaged or destroyed).

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Q:What does the body's nervous system control?

A:The five senses, Balance and blood pressure and Thought and reason. The nervous system is an elaborate arrangement of particular nerve cells that helps the human body interact with the outside world through senses and reasoning. The nervous system is comprised of two parts: the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the spinal cord and the brain, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which controls movements and functions, both voluntary and involuntary.

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Q:What is myelin?

A:A fatty coating surrounding nerves and A nerve insulator. Myelin (myelin sheath) is an insulating coating surrounding the nerves that allows the passage of nerve impulses to support coordination and muscle movement. As seen with MS, defensive immune system attacks destroy this myelin coating, interrupting the way in which the nervous system communicates and behaves within the body. The process by which myelin depletes is referred to as "demyelination."

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Q:Which is a common symptom of MS?

A:Imbalance. Because the movement-controlling nerves in the brain and spinal cord are under assault, people with MS may experience imbalance as a common symptom. MS patients are also likely to suffer impaired walking, standing, and coordination. MS progresses as more nerves are attacked, causing nervous system interferences that affects vision, speech, writing, and memory.

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Q:Do people die from MS?

A:No. Most people who develop MS can manage the disease over time. Oftentimes, people become disabled, but life-threatening MS is rare and does not necessarily reduce a person's life span.

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Q:What is the meaning of the term "multiple sclerosis"?

A:"Many locations of scar tissue". The term "multiple" refers to the multiple places in the central nervous system that are affected and to the multiple relapses and remissions characteristic of MS. The term "sclerosis" refers to localized hardening or scarring in the body. With MS, scar tissue called plaques form as myelin is destroyed.

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Q:Multiple sclerosis is only seen in adults. True or False?

A:False. Most frequently, early signs and symptoms of MS are observed in young to middle adulthood. There are rare cases, though, where children develop a varied type of MS called Schilder's disease. Much like classic MS, symptoms of Schilder's disease are progressive, myelin-depleting, and debilitating. Schilder's symptoms can include: dementia, incontinence, instability, and tremors.

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Q:The clear cause of MS remains unknown, though what may be important factors?

A:Environment, viruses, and genetics. Doctors, scientists, and researchers have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of multiple sclerosis. Still, recent years of dedicated research suggest that the immune system activity witnessed with multiple sclerosis may be trigged by the affected individual's environment, family history, or perhaps even a virus.

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Q:Interruptions between nerve cells can cause additional MS symptoms such as?

A:Urinary incontinence, Visions problems or loss and Muscle weakness. Urinary incontinence and other bladder problems; vision problems, vision loss, eye pain, double vision, muscle spasms, and limb weakness are symptoms that are commonly seen with MS. It is important to note that the length and frequency of MS signs and symptoms may vary from patient to patient.

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Q:There are currently no treatments for MS. True or False?

A:False. Thanks to strides in medical research and science, there is hope for people with MS. A number of disease-modifying drugs are now on the market to suppress or alter the body's immune system. Additional drug therapies can help reduce the frequency and severity of MS flares and slow the progression of the disease.

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