Multiple Sclerosis: An Overview | NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine


What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). A patient’s clinical course is difficult to predict.

It damages myelin, a substance that wraps around nerve fibers and helps protect them.

Damaged myelin exposes our nerve fiber and disrupts key communication between our nervous system and brain. This creates pain, coordination issues, vision problems, and more.

MS is considered to be an autoimmune disease, in which your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body.

Know the symptoms

Multiple sclerosis signs and symptoms appear in many ways. They can range from minimal to disabling, depending on how much nerve damage there is and which nerves are affected.

The majority of MS patients are mildly affected, but in the worst cases, MS can make a person unable to write, speak, or walk.

MS symptoms usually appear in people between ages 20 and 40 and can include the following:

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Red-green color distortion or blindness in one eye
  • Severe tiredness
  • Muscle weakness in hands or feet
  • Problems with coordination or balance
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Numbness or prickling “pins and needles” sensations
  • Speech problems
  • Tremors or dizziness
  • Hearing loss
  • Depression
  • Memory loss or difficulty concentrating

Check with a health care provider if you experience any or some of these symptoms and suspect it may be MS.


Some people with MS do well without therapy, and in some cases, medications can have serious side effects. Some have major risks, which requires close monitoring. Unfortunately, MS can worsen slowly enough that patients are not always aware of it, and this can happen in the absence of new lesions in the brain or spinal cord.

SOURCES: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Opens new window National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Definition of MS Opens new window

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