A chronic, frequently progressive auto-immune disease affecting the central nervous system.
The body's immune system attacks itself.
Myelin, a fatty substance, surrounds and protects nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system). When the myelin sheathing is destroyed, nerve impulses to the brain are interrupted. Scar tissue forms around the damaged myelin.
Symptoms may range from fatigue, slurred speech, vision and mobility problems to severe disabilities including blindness and paralysis. There may also be some cognitive changes.
The progress, severity and specific symptoms of the disease cannot be foreseen. You never know when attacks will occur, how long they will last or how severe they will be.
MS strikes young adults, between the ages of 20 to 40.
Women develop MS twice as often as men.
Frequency of MS increases in colder climates, both north and south of the equator.
Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world with some 50,000 people affected.
MS is not contagious nor hereditary, although a genetic predisposition is suspected.
The cause of MS is unknown, as is the cure. But there are four new drugs that help alter the course of the disease: Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone and Rebif.
With proper support, people with MS can lead productive and active lives.