What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects approximately 100,000 people in the UK. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20-40, and it is twice as common in women as in men. Interestingly, it is more common in countries that are further from the equator; Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.

The symptoms can be very variable, but might include numbness, vision problems, difficulties with walking and fatigue. Most often, the disease follows a relapsing-remitting course at first, during which the symptoms come and go.

MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system wrongly attacks the myelin (a fatty substance that forms an insulating layer around nerves) in the brain and spinal cord. It is likely to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

There is currently no cure for MS, but it is possible to reduce the number of relapses and improve symptoms using medicine, exercise and physiotherapy.

Useful links

The MS Society (http://www.mssociety.org.uk/)

The MS Trust (http://www.mstrust.org.uk/)

MS-UK (http://www.ms-uk.org/)

NHS Choices, multiple sclerosis (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Multiple-sclerosis)