Living With Multiple Sclerosis: Diagnosis, Treatment and Ongoing Care

Medically Reviewed by Kelsey Powell, MS, Medical Sciences

Photo Courtesy: [shapecharge/E+/Getty Images]

Multiple sclerosis, also called MS, is an autoimmune disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks the protective sheath (called myelin) that insulates your nerves and helps control the transmission of nerve impulses. Because of the breakdown in myelin, the electrical impulses that travel along your nerves slow down, and this in turn slows down the communication between your brain and body. At the same time, nerve damage also occurs. Symptoms of MS can vary based on the extent of the nerve damage and the type of nerves affected.

As MS progresses, you may begin to lose your ability to see, walk, write or speak. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is the leading cause (with the exception of physical trauma) of neurological disability beginning in early to mid-adulthood. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and around 200 people are diagnosed with MS every week.

Overall, MS affects approximately 2.3 million people worldwide, including about 400,000 Americans. Currently there is no cure for MS. However, treatments can help reduce the flare-ups that happen, modify the course of the disease and improve symptoms.