Taking the First Steps

Newly Diagnosed

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that impacts the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, which make up the central nervous system and controls everything we do. The exact cause of MS is unknown, but we do know that something triggers the immune system to attack the CNS. The resulting damage to myelin, the protective layer insulating wire-like nerve fibers, disrupts signals to and from the brain. This interruption of communication signals causes unpredictable symptoms such as numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis. Everyone’s experience with MS is different and these losses may be temporary or long lasting.

Threating MS

Managing MS is an ongoing process, beginning with the very first symptoms and continuing throughout the disease course. It’s never too soon or too late to think about how to access high quality, comprehensive, interdisciplinary care. Knowing what to look for, where to find it, and how to work effectively with your doctor and other health professionals is essential to your health, wellness and quality of life.

Living Well with MS

See how a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress management and other wellness strategies can help you manage your MS symptoms and feel your best.


What Causes MS?

Multiple sclerosis is caused by your immune system mistakenly attacking the brain and nerves. It's not clear why this happens but it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

In MS, an abnormal immune response causes inflammation and damage in the central nervous system (CNS). Two important types of immune cells are T cells and B cells. Ongoing efforts to learn more about the immune-mediated process in MS will bring us closer to understanding the cause.

There is no single risk factor that provokes multiple sclerosis (MS), but several factors are believed to contribute to the overall risk. Vitamin D is thought to support immune function and may protect against immune-mediated diseases like MS. Smoking and obesity may contribute to inflammation and more MS activity in those already diagnosed with MS. Stopping smoking is associated with a slower progression of disability, according to evidence.

The cause of MS is still unknown. Studies suggest that exposure to an infectious agent may be involved in triggering the disease. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been implicated in a number of studies, including those of Alberto Ascherio, MD, DrPH. Human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6) may also be involved in MS. A team in Spain has found that tracking antibodies may help predict the clinical course of MS. Advances in technology are helping MS researchers look for viral clues to the disease's origin.

Clusters of multiple sclerosis (MS) are of interest because they may provide clues to environmental or genetic risk factors that might cause or trigger the disease. Cluster studies have not produced clear evidence for the existence of any causative or triggering factor or factors in MS. MS occurs more often in women and individuals of northern European ancestry. It is possible for clusters to happen by chance, with no common factor(s) causing the MS.

MS Documentation

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