What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord). It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. This means the immune system attacks the person’s healthy tissue.

MS can cause symptoms such as visual problems, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration. These symptoms may come and go. Fortunately most people develop only a few of these symptoms over the course of their MS and are able to manage them with assistance and support.

Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, however there are rare exceptions. MS is not considered a fatal disease as the vast majority of people with it live a normal life-span.

Types of MS

Relapsing-Remitting (RRMS)

RRMS is when you suffer distinct attacks of symptoms which then fade away either partially or completely. Around 85 per cent of people with MS are diagnosed with this type.

The relapsing remitting label can help to explain MS to others and help you to find the best treatments. But it can’t predict exactly how MS will affect you. For most people with MS, this is the way their MS begins.

Primary Progressive (PPMS)

PPMS affects about 10 to 15 per cent of people diagnosed with MS.

Their symptoms gradually get worse over time, rather than appearing as sudden attacks (relapses).

In primary progressive MS, early symptoms are often subtle problems with walking, which develop, often slowly over time.

Whatever symptoms someone experiences, the way they progress can vary – from person to person and over time. So, although in the long-term symptoms might get gradually worse, there can be long periods of time when they seem to be staying level, with no noticeable changes.

Secondary Progressive (SPMS)

This stage of MS which comes after relapsing remitting MS in many cases. Neurologists generally agree secondary progressive MS is a “sustained build-up of disability, independent of any relapses”.

Most people with relapsing remitting MS will eventually develop secondary progressive MS. It varies widely from person to person, but on average, around 65 per cent of people with relapsing remitting MS will develop secondary progressive MS 15 years after being diagnosed.

Progressive Relapsing

This form of MS is characterised by a gradual progression of disability from the onset of the disease and is accompanied by one of more relapses.