Multiple sclerosis (abbreviated MS, also known as disseminated sclerosis) is a chronic, inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS).
MS can cause a variety of symptoms, including changes in sensation, visual problems, muscle weakness, depression, difficulties with coordination and speech, severe fatigue, and pain.
Although many patients lead full and rewarding lives, MS can cause impaired mobility and disability in more severe cases.
Multiple sclerosis affects neurons, the cells of the brain and spinal cord that carry information, create thought and perception, and allow the brain to control the body.
Surrounding and protecting some of these neurons is a fatty layer known as the myelin sheath, which helps neurons carry electrical signals.
MS causes gradual destruction of myelin (demyelination) and transection of neuron axons in patches throughout the brain and spinal cord.
The name multiple sclerosis refers to the multiple scars (or scleroses) on the myelin sheaths.
This scarring causes symptoms which vary widely depending upon which signals are interrupted.
It is thought that MS results from attacks by an individual's immune system on the nervous system and is therefore categorized as an autoimmune disease.