DefinitionMultiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. It is a chronic condition that can be disabling.There are several types of MS:
- Relapsing-remitting MS —Symptoms suddenly reappear periodically. They last for a few weeks or months, then go back into remission (a period with no symptoms). Symptoms may get worse with each occurrence.
- Primary progressive MS —Symptoms gradually worsen after symptoms first appear. Relapses and remissions usually do not occur.
- Secondary progressive MS —After years of relapses and remissions, symptoms suddenly begin to progressively worsen.
- Progressive relapsing MS —Symptoms gradually worsen after symptoms first appear. One or more relapses may also occur.
|Nerve Fiber (Neuron)|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
CausesThe immune system normally attacks viruses or bacteria that should not be in the body. With MS, a problem with the immune system causes it to attack healthy nerves. In particular, MS attacks the nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord, and the nerves of the eye. The exact cause of these immune problems is unknown.The following may contribute to the development of MS:
- Viral or other infection
- Genetic factors (heredity)
- Environmental factors
- Breaking down of parts of the nervous system
Risk FactorsMS is more common in women and in people aged 15-50 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of MS include:
- Exposure to certain viruses
- Family members who have MS or other autoimmune disorders
- Being of Northern European descent
- Growing up in a colder climate, as opposed to a tropical climate
- Having certain immune system genes
- Having inflammation of the optic nerve
- Having low vitamin D levels
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