Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the body. It can cause a wide array of symptoms that vary with each individual. Some of these symptoms include fatigue, walking difficulties, numbness, involuntary muscle spasms, weakness, vision problems, dizziness/vertigo, pain, bladder/bowel problems and cognitive and emotional changes.
In order to be diagnosed with MS, a person must have damage in at least two different areas of the central nervous system. The damages must have occurred more than one month apart and have all other causes ruled out. Most people are diagnosed between ages 20 and 40 and two or three times as many women are diagnosed as men. The cause of MS is still unknown and the progress and severity of the symptoms cannot yet be predicted. However, depending on a person’s specific symptoms, there are treatment options such as medication and rehabilitation available to help manage and relieve symptoms.
Depending on the severity of symptoms, MS can greatly impact one’s lifestyle and daily activities. Most people experience mild to moderate symptoms such as muscle weakness, visual disturbances, difficulty with coordination or balance, sensations of numbness or prickling or problems with thinking and memory. However, in more severe cases, people may develop paralysis or lose the ability to write, speak or walk. The majority of people with MS are able to adjust to modifications of their usual activities.
Research is ongoing in order to learn more about what causes the disease as well as how to treat it. Many organizations exist to provide information, resources and support for those with MS.