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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic and complex disease with many concepts to understand.  The term Multiple refers to many and Sclerosis refers to plaques or scars.  These scars are also referred to as lesions. MS is a demyelinating disease with the damage occurring to the myelin sheath (protective covering) of the nerves in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves and/or cells that produce and maintain them.  Symptoms of MS are varied and related to the location of nerve damage.


The diagnosis of MS is often based on the clinical history and presentation of a person’s symptoms and supported by diagnostic testing. The history of symptoms is combined with a complete neurological examination and several diagnostic tests are performed to determine if the person meets criteria for a diagnosis of MS or if there are other conditions that should be considered. For the traditional diagnosis of MS, symptoms must occur at different time periods and be from different areas of the Central Nervous System (CNS) which includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Tests to support or confirm the diagnosis of MS often include:  MRIs of the brain and spinal cord, diagnostic studies and blood tests to rule out other conditions, and obtaining spinal fluid for analysis by lumbar puncture. There are specific criteria that the MS Specialists use to formulate and confirm the diagnosis of MS based upon the combination of the clinical history, neurologic examination and diagnostic testing.  This is referred to as McDonald Criteria.  There are several types of MS:  Clinically Isolated Syndrome, Relapsing Remitting MS, Secondary Progressive MS, and Primary Progressive MS.

The most commonly cited estimate of people who are diagnosed with MS in the United States is approximately 1 million.  Global estimates of people having MS is approximately 2.8  million. Most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20 and 50 years with the peak age being 30 years.

MS is considered an autoimmune disorder and is one of the most common causes of disability in younger adults.  Although there is currently not a cure for MS, there are medications to treat both MS and to treat associated symptoms.

There are a variety of resources available to obtain information and learn about MS.  It is important to visit reputable, quality sites for accurate information.

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