What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Updated: Oct 08, 2019
  • Author: Christopher Luzzio, MD; Chief Editor: Jasvinder Chawla, MD, MBA  more...
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Answer

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated inflammatory disease that attacks myelinated axons in the central nervous system, destroying the myelin and the axon in variable degrees and producing significant physical disability within 20–25 years in more than 30% of patients. The hallmark of MS is symptomatic episodes that occur months or years apart and affect different anatomic locations. See the image below.

MRI of the head of a 35-year-old man with relapsin MRI of the head of a 35-year-old man with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. MRI reveals multiple lesions with high T2 signal intensity and one large white matter lesion. These demyelinating lesions may sometimes mimic brain tumors because of the associated edema and inflammation.

See Multiple Sclerosis and Other Enemies of Myelin, a Critical Images slideshow, for more information on incidence, presentation, and intervention, as well as additional resources.

Also, see the Autoimmune Disorders: Making Sense of Nonspecific Symptoms slideshow to help identify several diseases that can cause a variety of nonspecific symptoms.


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