Multiple sclerosis 

Introduction 

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis is one of the most common neurological conditions among young adults. An MS specialist nurse explains how to recognise early symptoms and where to get help.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological condition in young adults in the UK, affecting around 100,000 people.

There are three main types of MS:

  • relapsing remitting MS
  • secondary progressive MS
  • primary progressive MS

About the disease

MS is a condition of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). The central nervous system controls the body's actions and activities, such as movement and balance.

Each nerve fibre in the central nervous system is surrounded by a substance called myelin. Myelin helps messages from the brain to travel quickly and smoothly to the rest of the body.

In MS, the myelin becomes damaged. This disrupts the transfer of these messages.

Who is affected

MS can occur at any age, but symptoms are mostly first seen between the ages of 20 and 40. Women are more than twice as likely to develop MS as men.

Outlook

MS is a lifelong condition, but it is not terminal. Most people with MS can expect to live as long as someone without the condition. However, a minority of patients (about 20%) with MS have a considerably shortened life.

Last reviewed: 29/01/2010

Next review due: 29/01/2012

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