An Overview of Multiple Sclerosis: Diagnosis and Management Strategies

Kathleen Costello, RN, MS, CRNP, MSCN; Colleen J. Harris, RN, MN, NP, MSCN


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2006;6(1) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex and unpredictable disease that affects the central nervous system. It is the most common neurologic disease of young adults, usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Most individuals begin with a relapsing-remitting disease course that often evolves to a more progressive decline in function, called secondary-progressive MS. A small percentage of individuals never experience a relapse, but rather have a steady decline in functional ability and a primary-progressive course of MS. The diagnosis can be difficult as no specific diagnostic tests exist. The treatment of MS requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes relapse management, disease modification, and symptom management. On the basis of recommendations from the Consortium of MS Centers, a North American multidisciplinary group, all persons with MS should have access to care from a multidisciplinary care team that is expert in MS.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that is characterized by relapses and remissions of neurologic symptoms and progression of disability over time. It is the most common neurologic disease affecting young adults, diagnosed in approximately 500,000 individuals in the United States and approximately 50,000 in Canada. Most are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 50. Two thirds of those with MS are women. The majority are white and of northern European descent.[1]

The etiology of MS is not known; however, it is considered by most researchers to be an immune-mediated disease. The etiology is thought to be multifactorial with some genetic predisposition, environmental exposure in childhood, and a later trigger such as infection in young adulthood.


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