Multiple Sclerosis

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged.[1] This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a range of signs and symptoms, including physical, mental, and sometimes psychiatric problems.[2][3][4] Specific symptoms can include double vision, blindness in one eye, muscle weakness, trouble with sensation, or trouble with coordination.[1] MS takes several forms, with new symptoms either occurring in isolated attacks (relapsing forms) or building up over time (progressive forms).[5] Between attacks, symptoms may disappear completely; however, permanent neurological problems often remain, especially as the disease advances.[5]While the cause is not clear, the underlying mechanism is thought to be either destruction by the immune system or failure of the myelin-producing cells.[6]Proposed causes for this include genetics and environmental factors such as being triggered by a viral infection.[3][7] MS is usually diagnosed based on the presenting signs and symptoms and the results of supporting medical tests.[8]There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis.[1] Treatments attempt to improve function after an attack and prevent new attacks.[3] Medications used to treat MS, while modestly effective, can have side effects and be poorly tolerated. Physical therapy can help with people’s ability to function.[1] Many people pursue alternative treatments, despite a lack of evidence.[9] The long-term outcome is difficult to predict, with good outcomes more often seen in women, those who develop the disease early in life, those with a relapsing course, and those who initially experienced few attacks.[10] Life expectancy is on average 5 to 10 years lower than that of an unaffected population.[2]Multiple sclerosis is the most common autoimmune disorder affecting the central nervous system.[11] In 2013, about 2.3 million people were affected globally with rates varying widely in different regions and among different populations.[12][13] That year about 20,000 people died from MS, up from 12,000 in 1990.[14]The disease usually begins between the ages of 20 and 50 and is twice as common in women as in men.[15] MS was first described in 1868 by Jean-Martin Charcot.[16] The name multiple sclerosis refers to the numerous scars (sclerae—better known as plaques or lesions) that develop on the white matter of the brain and spinal cord.[16] A number of new treatments and diagnostic methods are under development.[17]

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