A Better Understanding of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Posted on March 28, 2011


Although researchers have made significant strides in the study of MS, it continues to be a very confusing disease for the people it affects. About 250,000 to 350,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with MS at any one time (NIH). The disease primarily affects people ages 20 to 40, with women twice as likely as men to get the disease.


MS is a disorder that attacks the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). When this happens it causes damage to the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is the material that surrounds and protects your nerve cells. When the myelin sheath is damages, messages that are carried between your brain and body are slowed down or even blocked.


Usually the symptoms are mild. However, some more serious symptoms include:

  • Visual disturbances, which may include eye pain, distortion or loss of vision in one eye, or impairment of color perception

  • Difficulty walking or performing tasks that require coordination

  • Loss of sensation

  • Fatigue and/or weakness

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control


There is no cure for MS at the time, but there are medicines that can slow down the disorder and control symptoms. Medications that target the body’s immune system may decrease the frequency and duration of attacks. Physical therapy is also an option for those who need help with daily activities.


Medline Plus offers an online tutorial on MS that will provide you with more information on the disorder. As always, if you need more information or help finding a doctor call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050.