Multiple Sclerosis FAQs

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What is it like to have MS?

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. It can cause:

  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of balance
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Numbness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Mood changes
  • Dizziness

What causes multiple sclerosis?

The cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown. Research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors playing a role. Possible risk factors include:

  • A family history of MS
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • History of infectious mononucleosis
  • Past concussions
  • Where you live
Multiple sclerosis occupational therapist helps a patient in the MS clinic

Who gets multiple sclerosis?

MS occurs more often in women than in men. Most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20 and 50 years. It can also occur in children and older adults.

How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?

No single test exists to diagnose this condition. Instead, neurologists and MS specialists make a diagnosis by gathering information from your medical history, physical exams, imaging and lab test results.

What is a multiple sclerosis relapse?

Commonly called “attacks,” “exacerbations,” or “flare-ups,” MS relapses happen when new symptoms suddenly appear or old symptoms worsen for more than 24 hours. Relapses can last from several days up to several weeks.

How do I know if I’m having a relapse?

MS symptoms can come and go. You may feel worse than normal if you do too much, get too hot, get overtired or sick, or have surgery. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a relapse. You will likely improve.

What do I do if I have a relapse?

Contact your provider, who may want to order blood tests or imaging and prescribe steroid treatment.

Is there a cure for multiple sclerosis?

Not yet. We currently have several FDA-approved medications that can improve your well-being by reducing the number of relapses you have. Medicine can also slow down the progression of the disease. In addition, many therapeutic and technological advances can help people manage their symptoms. Research advances every year, including research, to find a cure.

How is multiple sclerosis treated?

Having MS means a lifetime of treatment. This can include both medication and other approaches, like rehab.

Medication reduces inflammation in the brain and spinal cord by targeting your immune system. This approach:

  • Lessens the number of MS attacks
  • Can slow the worsening of the disease

How do I choose a treatment?

We’ll work with you to create a treatment plan that takes into account your unique history and needs. When choosing a treatment, we’ll discuss:

  • Effectiveness. How well does the therapy work, both as you begin therapy and over time?
  • Side effects. Nearly every medication has some kind of side effect. Review the side effects of each treatment option with your medical provider.
  • Lifestyle. Consider how the treatment will fit with your responsibilities (work, travel, family).
  • Medication type. Which delivery method works best for you? Options include injection, oral medications and infusions through an IV.

What if I become pregnant?

If you learn that you are pregnant, contact your MS provider, especially if you’re on treatment. Some treatments are safer during pregnancy and breastfeeding than others.

Will I be on a treatment for the rest of my life?

We don’t know. Current research is looking at outcomes in stable patients who stop treatment.

What can I do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Set up care with a primary care provider to maintain good general health, get your vaccinations and develop strategies for maintaining low stress levels, conserving energy and reducing your risk of illness. Incorporating healthy diets and physical activity into your lifestyle plays a large role in management of MS.