About Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the brain and the spinal cord. It affects the insulating layers that wrap the nerve cells (the myelin sheath), and, as a consequence, disrupts nerve signals within the brain.
Symptoms vary greatly between individuals, depending on which areas of the brain are affected, and include problems with vision, sensation, memory and movement.
Around 2.5M people worldwide have MS.
MS is often described as an inflammatory problem that results in damage to the myelin sheath. However, the disease mechanisms are far more complex and multifaceted; both inflammation and neurodegeneration (nerve cell death) occur, together with scarring (sclerosis) and activation of tissue repair systems. Due to this complexity, the pattern of MS activity varies between individuals, either following a steady course of deterioration (progressive forms) or being characterised by acute deteriorations that are called relapses, which are interspersed with periods of recovery (relapsing-remitting forms). Most patients with relapsing-remitting disease convert to slowly progressive symptoms later in life. The chance of relapses in MS can now be reduced by using anti-inflammatory treatments. However, progressive symptoms are due to degeneration of the underlying nerves, which have lost their myelin sheaths, and there are no treatments available to slow, stop or reverse their progress.