Multiple Sclerosis

multiple sclerosis (MS), chronic, slowly progressive autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the protective myelin sheaths that surround the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord (a process called demyelination), resulting in damaged areas that are unable to transmit nerve impulses. The disease also gradually damages the nerves themselves. There are elevated numbers of lymphocytes in the cerebral spinal fluid and of T cells in the blood (see immunity).

The onset of MS is usually at age 20 to 40 years, and its many symptoms affect almost every system of the body. There may be visual difficulties, emotional disturbances, speech disorders, convulsions, paralysis or numbness of various regions of the body, bladder disturbances, and muscular weakness. The course of the disease varies greatly from person to person. In some patients, the symptoms remit and return, sometimes at frequent intervals and sometimes after several years. In others the disease progresses steadily.

There is a genetic predisposition to MS, and environmental factors also seem to play some role. The disease is more common in temperate climates (1:2,000) than in the tropics (1:10,000).

There is no cure for MS, but a number of drugs—the first of which became available in the 1990s—can slow its underlying progress and/or reduce the frequency of attacks. These are beta interferon (a synthetic version of a natural substance produced by the immune system), glatiramer acetate, and natalizumab.

See R. Rubinstein, Take It Or Leave It: Aspects of Being Ill (1989); U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center, Multiple Sclerosis (1990).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

An Illustrated Pocketbook of Multiple Sclerosis
Charles M. Poser.
Parthenon, 2003
Understanding Multiple Sclerosis
Melissa Stauffer.
University of Mississippi Press, 2006
The Neuropsychology of Degenerative Brain Diseases
Robert G. Knight.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Multiple Sclerosis"
Fractured Minds: A Case-Study Approach to Clinical Neuropsychology
Jenni A. Ogden.
Oxford University Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Tomorrow Is Another Day: Living with Multiple Sclerosis"
Handbook of Pain Syndromes: Biopsychosocial Perspectives
Andrew R. Block; Edwin F. Kremer; Ephrem Fernandez.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 17 "Pain in Multiple Sclerosis and the Muscular Dystrophies"
Multiple Sclerosis, Aging and Support Service Utilization
Putnam, Michelle; Tang, Fengyan.
The Journal of Rehabilitation, Vol. 73, No. 4, October-December 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Impact of Parental Multiple Sclerosis on the Adjustment of Children and Adolescents
De Judicibus, Margaret A.; McCabe, Marita P.
Adolescence, Vol. 39, No. 155, Fall 2004
Medical, Pyschological, Social, and Programmatic Barriers to Employment for People with Multiple Sclerosis
Johnson, Kurt L.; Amtmann, Dagmar; Yorkston, Kathryn M.; Klasner, Estelle R.; Kuehn, Carrie M.
The Journal of Rehabilitation, Vol. 70, No. 1, January-March 2004
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Doctor's Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Understanding, Treating, and Living with CFIDs
David S. Bell.
Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1994
Librarian’s tip: discussion of Multiple Sclerosis in Chap. 3 "Could it be something else?"
The Link between Religion and Health: Psychoneuroimmunology and the Faith Factor
Harold G. Koenig; Harvey Jay Cohen.
Oxford University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Multiple Sclerosis" begins on p. 183
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