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Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

In MS, damage to the insulating layer around nerves can cause numbness, vision problems, difficulties with walking and fatigue.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects approximately 100,000 people in the UK. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, and it is twice as common in women as in men. Interestingly, it is more common in countries that are further from the equator. Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.

The symptoms of MS can be very variable, but might include numbness, vision problems, difficulties with walking and fatigue. Most often, the disease follows a relapsing-remitting course at first, during which the symptoms come and go.

MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system wrongly attacks the myelin (a fatty substance that forms an insulating layer around nerves) in the brain and spinal cord. It is likely to result from a combination of genetic ‘risk factors’ and environment or lifestyle ‘triggers’.

There is currently no cure for MS, but it is possible to reduce the number of relapses and improve symptoms using medicine, exercise and physiotherapy.

Further information

The MS Society

The MS Trust



NHS Inform: multiple sclerosis