Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological condition in young adults in the UK, affecting around 85,000 people.
MS is a condition of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). The central nervous system controls the body's actions and activities, such as movement and balance.
Each nerve fibre in the central nervous system is surrounded by a substance called myelin. Myelin helps messages from the brain to travel quickly and smoothly to the rest of the body.
In MS, the myelin becomes damaged. This disrupts the transfer of these messages.
Types of multiple sclerosis
There are three types of MS. They are characterised by the pattern of relapse and remission that the symptoms follow.
- Relapsing remitting MS (RRMS)
Relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) is the most common type of MS. It is characterised by numerous relapses and remissions. Relapses may last for days, weeks or months. You may experience new symptoms each time, or a recurrence of previous ones. After each relapse, you may recover completely. However, many people's symptoms improve but do not disappear altogether.
- Secondary progressive MS (SPMS)
Secondary progressive MS (SPMS) follows on from RRMS. It is characterised by a steady worsening of symptoms, with or without relapses. Studies show that most people with RRMS go on to develop this form of MS, on average 15-20 years after the onset.
- Primary progressive MS (PPMS)
Primary progressive MS (PPMS) is the rarest form of MS. If you have this form of MS, symptoms will get steadily worse with no distinct relapses or remissions.
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis
There are many different symptoms of MS and they affect each person differently. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Numbness and tingling
- Blurring of vision
- Problems with mobility and balance
- Muscle weakness and tightness
Other possible symptoms may include:
- Visual problems
- Muscle spasms and spasticity
- Mobility problems
- Cognitive problems
- Emotional problems
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Bladder problems
- Bowel problems
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