What Is Mulitple Sclorosis? By Hope VItale

Essay by GoNavyGirlHigh School, 11th gradeA, November 2004

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system (CNS), the nerves that comprise the brain and spinal cord. Its cause is unknown, and it cannot be prevented or cured. It is not fatal, however, and great progress is being made in treating it and identifying underlying mechanisms that trigger this disease.

·         The process begins with the destruction of myelin, a fatty insulation covering the nerve fibers.

·         The end results of this process, called demyelination, are multiple patches of hard, scarred tissue called plaques. (Multiple sclerosis is well named. Sclerosis comes from the Greek word skleros, which means hard.)

The symptoms, severity, and course of MS vary widely depending partly on the sites of the plaques and the extent of the demyelination.

Experts generally group multiple sclerosis into two major categories:

·         Relapsing-remitting.

·         Chronic-progressive MS. Chronic progressive, in turn, is often subcategorized as primary-progressive, secondary-progressive, and progressive-relapsing MS.

Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis

Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis generally occurs in younger people and is the most common form of MS. It generally follows this course:

·         Symptoms flare up for several days. They are fairly mild in about half of patients with this form of MS.

·         The disease then goes into remission (when symptoms improve or disappear), usually for about four to eight weeks. Remission periods may be spontaneous or induced by immunosuppressive drugs.

·         A person with multiple sclerosis in remission may have subtle attacks and not realize it. For example, hands may be a little numb for a few days, or there may be slight awkwardness in gait or coordination.

·         Remissions are almost always followed by symptom flare-ups or periods of deteriorating ability.

Chronic-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

The term chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis is used to describe cases in which symptoms continue...