Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
MS is a disease affecting the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord)
• Multiple sclerosis is a complex condition which is often misunderstood.
• More than 130,000 people in the UK have MS
• MS is NOT a terminal illness, but it is a life-long condition.
In This Section
MS is a disease affecting the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). ‘Sclerosis’ means scarring and refers to the damage to the nerves caused by MS. ‘Multiple’ is added because this can happen in more than one place. It is mostly diagnosed in younger people in their 20’s and 30’s but can develop at any age. MS affects people differently and can be difficult to diagnose. There are several types of MS with some, symptoms may come and go and with others it can progress and get steadily worse over time.
Types of MS
- relapsing remitting MS
- secondary progressive MS
- primary progressive MS.
Symptoms of MS
MS can cause a wide range of potential symptoms including:
- Fatigue (extreme exhaustion which is disproportionate to the task)
- Strange feelings in your skin (numbness, burning tingling, pins & needles)
- Problems with eyesight
- Memory and thinking problems.
- Walking difficulties (tripping, stumbling, weakness, or heavy feeling in legs)
- Muscle stiffness and spasms
- Bladder and bowel problems
- Sexual difficulties
What Causes MS
There is no known cause for MS although most experts think a combination of genetic and environmental factors are likely to be involved. MS is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the layer that surrounds and protects the nerves called the myelin sheath. Damage to this protective layer means that messages travelling along the nerves become slowed or disrupted
Most people are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, but it can be diagnosed in younger and older people.
It’s nearly three times more common in women than in men.
Treatments for MS
There is currently no cure for MS, however, there are a lot of possible treatments available. These include treatments to treat the symptoms of MS such as drug treatments, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, self-management techniques and rehabilitation, disease modifying drugs that can treat the underlying condition of MS which work to reduce the number and severity of relapses and that can slow down the build up of disability over time, and there are also complimentary therapies that can work alongside conventional medicine such as yoga, massage, reflexology and mindfulness.
WHat Can your GP Do?
If you are worried that you might have MS then you should discuss this with your GP. In the early stages MS can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can all have other causes. Try to keep a record of symptoms and specific patterns that you are experiencing to help your GP.
If there is a possibility that you could have MS, you will most likely be sent for an MRI scan and referred to a neurologist who specialises in conditions of the nervous system.
Things to Remember
- MS is not infectious or contagious so you cannot catch it like a cold.
- Every week around 100 more people are diagnosed.
- Everyone’s MS is different so no two people will have the same range and severity of symptoms, even if they are closely related.
For more information about Multiple Sclerosis:
More info about MS from the NHS