Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable nervous system disease. It damages the material that surrounds and protects your nerve cells, which then slows down or blocks messages between your brain and your body.
MS affects women two or three times as often as men and often begins between the ages of 20 and 40.
While the effects of MS are usually mild, some people lose the ability to write, speak or walk. Symptoms vary and may include:
Because the cause of MS is unknown, it can't be prevented. There is also no cure for the disease, but there are ways to slow down its progression and control its symptoms.
If your symptoms are not severe or frequent, your doctor may recommend just keeping an eye on your symptoms. But if you're suffering from pain or serious physical disabilities, the following therapies may help:
Because MS symptoms can be infrequent, it can be difficult to diagnose. Be sure to provide as complete a medical history as possible to your doctor and tell your doctor about any of these early symptoms:
If your doctor suspects MS, he or she will likely give you a physical exam to check the health of your nerves and muscles. The next step is an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to look for signs of MS and eliminate other possibilities. As a last step – but only if necessary – your doctor may take a sample of your spinal fluid to test for abnormalities.