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Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (abbreviated MS, also known as disseminated sclerosis or encephalomyelitis disseminata) is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, leading to demyelination.[1] Disease onset usually occurs in young adults, and it is more common in women.[2] It has a prevalence that ranges between 2 and 150 per 100,000.[3] MS was first described in 1868 by Jean-Martin Charcot.[4]

MS affects the areas of the brain and spinal cord known as the white matter, destroying a fatty layer called the myelin sheath, which wraps around nerve fibers and electrically insulates them. When myelin is lost, the axons of neurons can no longer effectively conduct action potentials.[1] The name multiple sclerosis refers to the scars (scleroses – better known as plaques or lesions) in the white matter.[4] Although much is known about the mechanisms involved in the disease process, the cause remains unknown. Theories include genetics or infections. Different environmental risk factors have also been found.[5][1]

Almost any neurological symptom can appear with the disease, and often progresses to physical and cognitive disability.[1] MS takes several forms, with new symptoms occurring either in discrete attacks (relapsing forms) or slowly accumulating over time (progressive forms).[6] Between attacks, symptoms may go away completely, but permanent neurological problems often occur, especially as the disease advances.[6]

There is no known cure for MS. Treatments attempt to return function after an attack, prevent new attacks, and prevent disability.[1] MS medications can have adverse effects or be poorly tolerated, and many patients pursue alternative treatments, despite the lack of supporting scientific study. The prognosis is difficult to predict, it depends on the subtype of the disease, the individual patient's disease characteristics, the initial symptoms and the degree of disability the person experiences as time advances.[7] Life expectancy of patients is nearly the same as that of the unaffected population.[7]

The article above is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Multiple sclerosis".