Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a central nervous system disease which affects the brain and spinal cord. MS disrupts the brain's ability to send messages to the rest of the body resulting in difficulty walking, speaking and controlling vision. Multiple Sclerosis is the most common central nervous system disease among young adults in Canada.

The central nervous system acts like a switchboard, sending electrical messages along the nerves to various parts of the body. These messages are what propel our conscious and unconscious movements. In a healthy body the nerve fibres which make up the nerves are insulated by myelin, a fatty substance which aids the flow of messages. MS causes the myelin to break down and become replaced by sclera (scar tissue), which distorts or blocks the flow of messages. Body functions become difficult to control because messages cannot travel through the body correctly.

Symptoms of MS may include seeing double or uncontrolled eye movements, disruption of speech, partial or complete paralysis of any part of the body, extreme fatigue, the shaking of hands, loss of coordination, loss of bladder or bowel control, and dragging of the feet.

Early symptoms are usually mild and go away without treatment. As time goes on, however, they may become more frequent and more severe. A typical pattern is a short period of acute symptoms, followed by an easing or disappearance of symptoms for weeks, months or even years. Symptoms vary, depending on the part of the nervous system that is affected. For example, MS in the spinal cord might cause weakness, numbness and paralysis of the arms and legs.

Additional Facts About MS

  • People with MS can lead independent, active satisfying lives in spite of occasional disability.
  • Remissions are common. Many people with MS have few or no symptoms for months, even years.
  • A mild form of MS occurs in one out of three people with MS. They have few serious symptoms for many years after onset.
  • Three out of four people with MS are still active and can take care of daily needs many years after diagnosis of MS.
  • The life span for most people with MS is usually near normal.

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