Multiple Sclerosis

Background:

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the immune system, which normally protects your body, instead attacks the covering (myelin sheath) surrounding the nerves in your brain and spinal cord. These nerves send information from your brain and spinal cord to other nerves in your body, and myelin helps make this transmission efficient.

People with MS can typically experience one of four disease courses, each of which might be mild, moderate, or severe.

 

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS. People with this type of MS experience clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function. These attacks – which are also called relapses, flare-ups, or exacerbations – are followed by partial or complete recovery periods, during which no disease progression occurs. Approximately 85% of people are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.
  • Primary-Progressive MS. This disease course is characterized by slowly worsening neurologic function from the beginning – with no distinct relapses or remissions. The rate of progression may vary over time, with occasional plateaus and temporary minor improvements. Approximately 10% of people are diagnosed with primary-progressive MS.
  • Secondary-Progressive MS. Following an initial period of relapsing-remitting MS, many people develop a secondary-progressive disease course in which the disease worsens more steadily, with or without occasional flare-ups, minor recoveries (remissions), or plateaus. Before the disease-modifying medications became available, approximately 50% of people with relapsing-remitting MS developed this form of the disease within 10 years.
  • Progressive-Relapsing MS. In this relatively rare course of MS (5%), people experience steadily worsening disease from the beginning, but with clear attacks of worsening neurologic function along the way. They may or may not experience some recovery following these relapses, but the disease continues to progress without remissions.
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