Multiple Sclerosis

From the National Multiple Sclerosis Society ( and other sources:

Q: What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

A: MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Surrounding and protecting the nerve fibers of the CNS is a fatty tissue called myelin, which helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses.

In MS, myelin is lost in multiple areas, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis. These damaged areas are also known as plaques or lesions. Sometimes the nerve fiber itself is damaged or broken.

Myelin not only protects nerve fibers, but makes their job possible. When myelin or the nerve fiber is destroyed or damaged, the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain is disrupted, and this produces the various symptoms of MS.

Q: Who Gets MS?

A: Anyone may develop MS, but there are some patterns.

* Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50.
* Two-three times as many women as men have MS.
* Studies indicate that genetic factors make certain individuals more susceptible than others, but there is no evidence that MS is directly inherited.
* MS occurs more commonly among people with northern European ancestry, but people of African, Asian, and Hispanic backgrounds are not immune.

Approximately 400,000 Americans acknowledge having MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. Worldwide, MS may affect 2.5 million individuals.

Celebrities diagnosed with MS include Lola Falana, Annette Funicello, Roman Gabriel, Teri Garr, Lena Horne, Barbara Jordan, Richard Pryor, Paul Wellstone, and Montel Williams (to name just a few).

Q: What are the symptoms of MS?

A: Symptoms of MS may include:

Bladder dysfunction
Bowel dysfunction
Impaired cognitive function
Depression and other emotional changes
Difficulty in walking
Dizziness and vertigo
Hearing loss
Sexual dysfunction
Speech and swallowing disorders
Vision problems

(The variety and severity of symptoms varies from patient to patient. If you've seen one case of've seen one case of MS...)

Q: What can you do?

A: There are many ways you can assist as researchers search for a cure. For starters, get involved. The National MS Society lists many ways you can contribute to the cause.

Help others to live their lives to the fullest!