What is Multiple Sclerosis?

What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is believed to be an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the Myelin Sheath and the cells that actually produce Myelin (Oligodendrocytes). The immune system is ordinarily supposed to protect our body from disease but in the case of an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system attacks itself. The Myelin Sheath is a layer of fat that helps insulate nerve fibers (think of an electrical cord; rubber insulation wrapped around copper wire) allowing electrical signals to travel throughout the central nervous system (CNS) which consists of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. This allows us to move our bodies, sense the world around us and even have thoughts. When myelin is damaged these signals cannot travel properly and the body stops working the way it should.

Demyelination in Multiple SclerosisAreas of Myelin that have been damaged appear as white spots on an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) called lesions or plaques. “Multiple Sclerosis” literally means “Many Scars” which is what you see when looking at a brain scan of someone with MS; many white spots. Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic disease; currently, there is no cure, only treatments to manage the disease.


What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?
The exact cause of MS is still not known although it is believed that there may be genetic, environmental or infection-related factors. Most people with MS have other family members with the disease as well but MS is in no way contagious.

What Are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
It’s difficult to list them all as the symptoms a person will experience depend on where a lesion in the CNS may be located. Every bodily function from moving your legs to being able to remember something depends on electricity so though there is a more common set of symptoms experienced by those with MS, there is (essentially) the possibility of some sort of “malfunction” occurring in any part of the body. Because of this, MS is often called a “snowflake disease” because no two patients have the same exact set of symptoms or experience these symptoms at the same level of severity.

Common MS symptoms include visual disturbances such as optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve often resulting in blurry vision), numbness or tingling, fatigue, spasticity (a constant muscle contraction), problem walking due to gait abnormalities, balance issues, weakness, bladder issues, pain, cognitive issues, and depression.

statisticsWho Get’s Multiple Sclerosis?
According to the National MS Society, more than 2.3 million people worldwide are affected by MS. Of these people, woman tend to be about 2-3 times more likely to be affected than men. MS is generally diagnosed in those between the age of 20 and 50 though cases involving children and the elderly are not at all unheard of. Though MS occurs in many ethnic groups it is most common in Caucasians of northern European decent. MS occurs more commonly in populations further from the equator and in the United States the average individual has about a 1 in 750 chance of developing MS but different factors (such as those mentioned above) can push those odds all the way up to 25%!

What Are the Different Types of Multiple Sclerosis?
Most people are diagnosed with a relapsing-remitting form of MS but there are actually 4 main types;

RRMSRelapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis
About 85% of people diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis are diagnosed with RRMS. RRMS is characterized by periods of MS attacks (relapses) followed by a partial/complete recovery (remission).

SPMSSecondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
Most individuals diagnosed with RRMS end of developing SPMS which is characterized by a steady worsening of symptoms without periods of relapses and remission.

PPMSPrimary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
Only about 10% of the people diagnosed with MS are diagnosed with PPMS which is characterized by a steady worsening of symptoms from the very beginning, as in, there is never a relapsing-remitting stage.

PRMSProgressive Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis
This is the least common form of MS and is characterized by a steady worsening of symptoms from the very beginning with occasional relapses without remission.

Types of MS


10 Responses to What is Multiple Sclerosis?

  1. […] with for the last 12 months or so are on fire; they are so much more severe. Those of you with Multiple Sclerosis know when you are relapsing and I can tell you that I am clearly […]

  2. […] the knuckle of my big toe (right foot). It felt like nerve pain but I just could not justify it as Multiple Sclerosis pain as it was in such a small and specific spot! But I had no other explanation as I had not […]

  3. […] I woke up around 3:00 am to use the restroom; just a typical night as I am sure many of you with Multiple Sclerosis can relate to. As I shut off the light and crawled back into bed I had to pause… My vision… Was […]

  4. […] sort of annoys me, having to explain over and over again that I know about the whole “people with Multiple Sclerosis, for whatever reason, have low vitamin D” thing. But how could they know that I know? So I need […]

  5. […] life so difficult but I have never known just how to put it into words. This symptom is my worst Multiple Sclerosis symptom and I do not see it going away anytime soon so I need to really explain what it is instead […]

  6. […] is really annoying, everything has been so up and down, typical Multiple Sclerosis though right? I feel pretty good one day and then like total crap the next and then randomly good […]

  7. Tifa says:

    Hey Matt, thank you for your sincerity and openness in sharing all the nitty-gritty details about living with MS. Even if you don’t feel like your brain is functioning 100%, you’re a masterful storyteller and explainer (not sure if that’s a word?). As a student learning about MS, the detail in your explanations is really helpful, and you use great examples to help us get a glimpse of what it feels like. I hope you continue sharing this gift for many years to come!

    I am curious about how MS has affected the way you view yourself and your body. Do you feel like your mind and body are separate entities, as if your body has it’s own agenda and when it’s going through a symptom (like the oscillopsia you’ve been describing), you just have to wait for it to go through the motion and subside? Or does your mind fight to control the symptoms that you feel? I apologize if I may be asking a question you already answered in another post, I haven’t gone through your blog in its entirety yet.


    • Haha you just brought up a good point I have not thought to share. YES, I feel so separated I imagine my consciousness, ME, who I AM, I imagine that it is something separate controlling this malfunctioning body, this vessel. Ill be writing about that tomorrow for multiplesclerosis.net for sure! Not sure when it will be published though, thanks! :p

  8. […] I was first thinking about using Lemtrada for treating my Multiple Sclerosis this was the first question that came to mind. So many people told me that yes, Lemtrada was chemo. […]

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