Multiple Sclerosis is a disease in which the brain, spinal cord and nerves to the eyes (optic nerves) can be attacked by your immune system.
Specifically, the attack is directed at the coating of nerve cells called myelin. Myelin allows electrical signals to travel along nerves rapidly. When your immune cells attack myelin, these signals can be delayed or blocked.
This prevents the nerve cells from "talking" to one another. The result of this inflammation against myelin can be neurological symptoms such as numbness, weakness, visual loss, double vision and imbalance.
Attacks of inflammation causing symptoms lasting more than 24 hours are called relapses or exacerbations. Generally, the myelin can be repaired so recovery can occur. If the inflammation is severe enough, the actual nerves may be cut. This may result in permanent disability.
You Are Not Alone
Over 400,000 Americans are living with multiple sclerosis. Most people are 20 to 40 when diagnosed, but both children and older adults are often diagnosed. Factors include a combination of genetic and environmental. Many viruses have been studied, but no definite link to developing MS has been proven.
Relapse and Recovery
The good news is that treatment for relapsing disease will help you fight MS and reduce your risk of developing disability.
- About 85% of patients initially have attacks or relapses with full or partial recovery. This pattern is called relapsing remitting MS.
- Fifteen percent of patients never have attacks, but only a slowly progressive course called primary progressive MS.
- Most patients without treatment will switch from a relapsing remitting to a more progressively worsening course called secondary progressive MS.