Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerve fibers.
Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely between patients and depend on the location and severity of nerve fiber damage in the central nevous system. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or ambulate at all. Other individuals may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms depending on the type of MS they have.
There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, there are treatments to help speed the recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis signs and symptoms may differ greatly from person to person and over the course of the disease depending on the location of affected nerve fibers.
Common symptoms include:
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time
- Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward (Lhermitte sign)
- Lack of coordination
- Unsteady gait or inability to walk
- Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
- Prolonged double vision
- Blurry vision
- Problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function
- Slurred speech
- Cognitive problems
- Mood disturbances
Most people with MS have a relapsing-remitting disease course. They experience periods of new symptoms or relapses that develop over days or weeks and usually improve partially or completely. These relapses are followed by quiet periods of disease remission that can last months or even years.