Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system, and the most common cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults in the United States. Multiple sclerosis affects more than 400,000 people in the U.S. and more than 2.3 million people worldwide. Within the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis causes the body’s immune system to attack the myelin sheath that insulates the nerve fibers, causing scars (“sclerosis”) that interrupt nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment
Symptoms vary from person to person and include muscle weakness, numbness and tingling, and vision loss, among others. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 50. At this time, there is no one single test that can diagnose MS. A neurologist who specializes in treating MS can rule out other conditions and make an accurate diagnosis of MS based on your medical history and neurological examination.
While there is no cure, most people living with MS learn to manage their symptoms and lead productive lives with the help of advanced medical care.
Researching new MS treatment options
Although the MS disease course is unpredictable, researchers are making progress in developing effective new treatments, including research on remyelination and neuroprotection in multiple sclerosis. The 2018 Americas Committee for the Treatment and Research in MS (ACTRIMS) annual meeting focused on emerging therapies for treating multiple sclerosis. Researchers presented on several topics, including extended interval dosing for certain patients to reduce the risk of developing progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), pioneering work on myelin repair, and how vitamin D protects myelin in people with progressive MS.
Elizabeth Morrison-Banks, MD, MSED is a neurologist at UCR Health and director of the UCR Health Multiple Sclerosis Program.