Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease that affects the central nervous system –the brain and spinal cord.

Our nerve cells have a protective covering called myelin and without myelin, the brain and spinal cord can’t communicate with the nerves in the rest of the body. MS gradually destroys myelin in patches throughout the brain and spinal cord, causing muscle weakness and other symptoms. These patches are called lesions.

There’s no known cause of MS but most experts believe it is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system. MS is not a heritable disease, but genes may increase a person’s risk of developing the condition.

 Generally, MS follows one of four courses:

  • Relapsing-remitting, in which symptoms fade and then return off and on for many years.
  • Secondary progressive, which at first follows a relapsing-remitting course and then becomes progressive. "Progressive" means it steadily gets worse.
  • Primary progressive, in which the disease is progressive from the start.
  • Progressive relapsing, in which the symptoms are progressive at first and are relapsing later.

Symptoms

MS is different for each person. Some people only experience minor problems while others can become seriously disabled. Most people are somewhere in between. Symptoms depend on which part of the brain and spinal cord are damaged and how bad the damage is.

Symptoms include:

  • Muscle problems: You may feel weak and stiff and your limbs may feel heavy. You may drag your leg when you walk.
  • Vision problems: Your vision may be blurred or hazy. You may have eyeball pain (especially when you move your eyes), blindness or double vision.
  • Sensory problems: You may feel tingling, a pins-and-needles sensation or numbness. You may feel a band of tightness around your trunk or limbs.
  • Balance problems: You may feel lightheaded or dizzy or feel like you’re spinning.
  • Bladder and bowel dysfunction: You may feel frequency or urgency of urination, hesitancy starting urination, frequent nighttime urination, incontinence or the inability to empty the bladder completely.
  • Sexual dysfunction: You may find your sexual function is impaired and that being intimate is challenging.
  • Cognitive problems: You may experience memory problems, shortened attention span, language difficulties or trouble staying organized.
  • Fatigue: About 80 percent of people with MS experience fatigue, making it one of the most common symptoms.

Screening & Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

Diagnosing MS is not always easy as symptoms can be confused for other conditions. MS is usually diagnosed after a doctor confirms that you have had a typical relapse or flare impacting your central nervous system. MS flares typically last days or weeks and may impact vision, sensation, balance, or strength.

MRI imaging is necessary to make the diagnosis because patches of damage, or lesions, caused by MS attacks can be seen with this test.

Treating Multiple Sclerosis

Medicines are used to treat MS:

  • During a relapse, to make the attack shorter and less severe.
  • Over a long period of time, to keep down the number and severity of attacks and to slow the progression of the disease (This is called disease-modifying therapy.)
  • To control specific symptoms.

You may find it hard to decide when to start taking the drugs that slow the progression of MS. The drugs may not work for everyone, and they often have side effects. You and your doctor will decide together when you should start any of these drugs.

Treatments


Meet Our Multiple Sclerosis Specialists:

Kurecka, Rachel, PA-C
Hartford HealthCare Medical Group
Neuroimmunology
HHC Institute
The Ayer Neuroscience Institute
462 Queen Street Suite 201
Southington, CT 06489
Offers Video Medicine
Smith, Derek Richard, MD
Hartford HealthCare Medical Group
4.7 / 5
Neurology
HHC Institute
The Ayer Neuroscience Institute
One Towne Park Plaza
Norwich, CT 06360
More Locations
  • 190 Universal Drive North Suite 101
    North Haven, CT 06473
Offers Video Medicine
Wong, Brian, MD
Hartford HealthCare Medical Group
4.9 / 5
Neuroimmunology
HHC Institute
The Ayer Neuroscience Institute
462 Queen Street Suite 201
Southington, CT 06489
Offers Video Medicine

Multiple Sclerosis Center