Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system. The disease occurs in repeated episodes, the severity of which varies. During the intervals between active disease, the symptoms may disappear or the symptoms may gradually accumulate over years from injuries to various areas of the central nervous system. One-third of patients have mild, non-progressive disease, one third worsen slowly, and one third worsen rapidly. It is slightly more common in women between the ages of 20 to 40. In the U.S. it is more common in the northern states.
Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
The cause is unknown. Multiple sclerosis (MS) may be caused by an autoimmune disorder or slow-acting virus. The white matter in the brain and spinal cord break down and cannot conduct normal nerve impulses. The myelin sheath, or lining of the nerve becomes damaged. In this respect, this disorder is similar to some degree to Guillian-Barre syndrome, where the linings of the peripheral nerves are damaged.
Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
The sequence of an episode of abnormal neurological symptoms followed by remission and then another attack, particularly in a young person, is very suggestive of multiple sclerosis. When nerves or pathways that serve vision are involved, there is blurred vision, double vision of loss of vision. Difficulty walking and poor balance are common. Weakness or numbness may occur anywhere on the body. A tremor may develop and there may be impaired coordination of movements. As the disease progresses, more and more injuries occur in the brain. These can lead to marked weakness, tremor, speaking difficulty, loss of bladder or bowel control, extreme mood swings, and sexual impotence in men.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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