Multiple Sclerosis Ms

What Is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)? Image

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system. Multiple sclerosis occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly begins to attack the nervous system, making multiple sclerosis an autoimmune disease. Possible factors that may contribute to the development of multiple sclerosis include viral infections, genetics and immune system disorders.

The immune system’s attack on the central nervous system creates inflammation that damages the myelin protein sheath, an electrical insulator that surrounds nerve cells. Multiple sclerosis involves several immune system cells, including macrophages, T cells and B cells. All three types of immune system cells target viral and bacterial infections in a healthy immune system.

The Myelin Sheath

Nerves in the central nervous system are surrounded by a myelin sheath, which protects them from damage. Additionally, myelin aids in the transmission of nerve impulses along the central nervous system.

The Central Nervous System

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system mistakes proteins or other substances as a threat and produces antibodies to destroy the perceived threat. They typically cause inflammation. In multiple sclerosis, the inflammation affects the central nervous system and the antibodies attack the myelin sheath.

As myelin is destroyed, scars called sclerotic plaques build up in the central nervous system. The loss of myelin and the formation of lesions interfere with the central nervous system’s transmissions. Physical disability and other symptoms result from the myelin damage.

Multiple Sclerosis Incidence Rates

Multiple sclerosis is a serious autoimmune disease, causing disability in over 350,000 Americans. Approximately 25,000 new cases of MS are diagnosed in the United States every year.

Worldwide, over 2.5 million people suffer from multiple sclerosis and incidence rates of the autoimmune disease are rising. MS rates in several European countries doubled between 1967 and 1986. Multiple sclerosis is a leading cause of physical disability in young adults, but symptoms can develop at any age. Typically, multiple sclerosis symptoms develop between the ages of 20 and 40.

Women and Autoimmune Diseases

Like many autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis affects women more often than men. Exactly why autoimmune diseases strike women with greater frequency is unknown, but rates of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases are unquestionably higher in women. Women are twice as likely as men to develop multiple sclerosis symptoms.