What is multiple sclerosis?Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the nerve fibres of the central nervous system: the brain and spinal cord. These nerves gradually lose their ability to transmit electric signals between the brain and body. However, most patients have long periods of remission, when the disease does not get any worse and may even improve. Symptoms often include blurred vision, loss of balance, muscle weakness, fatigue and slurred speech. MS usually occurs in people aged 22-40, and affects more women than men.
Do we understand MS?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects myelin, the fatty insulating material wrapped around axons. When myelin gradually breaks down, the nerves can no longer efficiently carry electric signals between the brain and body. Some researchers think that MS is an autoimmune disease - the body's own immune system breaks down the myelin. The trigger for this self-destruction is not known, but it could involve a virus.
Can we treat MS?
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis (MS) at present. Drugs are used to 'damp down' the immune response during an acute attack, but these do not halt the disease. New drugs (such as interferon beta) appear to reduce the number of attacks. Many of the symptoms of MS improve temporarily with drug treatment and lifestyle changes, but it is not possible to stop the progression of the disease.