Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the body’s central nervous system (CNS). In a person with MS, the immune system attacks part of the body, specifically myelin, mistaking it for something foreign (from outside the body). Myelin is a fatty substance that covers and protects the nerves. When myelin is damaged, the brain cannot send signals and communicate with the rest of the body. The symptoms depend on the location of the nerves which have damaged myelin. Symptoms may include numbness or weakness in the limbs, partial or complete loss of vision, pain in the body, electric-shock sensations with certain neck movements, lack of coordination, slurred speech, fatigue, dizziness, and problems with the bowel and bladder.
Many people with MS have periods of new symptoms (relapse) that are then followed by periods of improvement in symptoms (remission). This form of MS, which is the most common form, is called relapsing-remitting course. The exact cause of MS is unknown. Researchers believe genetics and environmental factors, such as smoking, diet, or infections during childhood, may play a role.
In order to diagnose this condition, your doctor will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination. Your doctor may also perform various tests, such as blood tests, imaging tests, or collect fluid from your spine (spinal tap) to both rule out other conditions and find evidence of MS. Although there is no cure for MS, there are medications and therapies available to help control the symptoms and slow the progression. Talk with your doctor to decide which treatment plan is best for you. Support groups are also a good resource for support and additional information.