About MS

Multiple sclerosis is one of the most common neurological conditions and certainly one of the most unpredictable and variable diseases of them all. It usually strikes in the prime of life, just when family and job responsibilities are at their most demanding. From then on, there’s nothing usual about it. For some people its symptoms turn out to be a relatively mild and occasional inconvenience. For others, severe disability quickly sets in. For most, the reality lies somewhere in between.

An estimated 85,000 people in the UK have MS. Around 50 people, usually aged between 20 and 40 are diagnosed every week.

The symptoms occur because of scarring to the myelin sheath, which normally protects the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord. This damage prevents nerve impulses reaching different parts of the body which then cease to function properly.

MS strikes suddenly and without apparent reason. In some cases it follows a pattern of attacks and remissions. The attacks can be severe but are often widely spaced. In others, the disease is rapidly or steadily progressive. Many people go through life with nothing more than a manageable disability, but around one in five will become severely disabled.

Medical researchers believe a number of different factors are probably involved in causing the disease. These could include a virus combined with a deficiency in the body’s immune system and something in the individual’s genetic make-up. It is exactly that – not knowing what lies ahead – which makes MS such a cruel and devastating disease. Symptoms affecting movement, sight, speech and continence can be easily recognised. Pain and debilitating fatigue can be hard for others to see, let alone understand.

Living with the uncertainty can be stressful, especially for those who find it hard to ‘come out’ because they are worried about how their employers, colleagues and even friends will react.

Quick Facts About MS

  • Multiple sclerosis is the most common disabling disease of the central nervous system affecting young adults
  • An estimated 2,500,000 people in the world have MS, including 85,000 in the UK
  • Around 50 people, generally between 20 and 40 years of age, are diagnosed every week
  • Three women have MS for every two men
  • MS is rarely diagnosed under 12 or over 55
  • MS is more common in countries further away from the equator
  • MS is not contagious
  • MS is not directly hereditary but genetic susceptibility is a factor
  • There is no cure for MS but there are now drugs which can modify its course for some people
  • Many symptoms of MS can be successfully treated or managed

National Centre
MS National Centre
372 Edgware Road
Cricklewood
London
NW2 6ND

Switchboard: 020 8438 0700
Fax: 020 8438 0701
Email: info@mssociety.org.uk
Website: www.mssociety.org.uk

All calls to the MS Society National Help-line 0808 800 8000 are free and completely confidential.

Our specialist staff and trained volunteers are available 9 am to 9 pm, Monday to Friday, to support you, whatever the worry. If your enquiry is more general and a direct request for information, then our information help-line may be able to help. Open Monday – Friday, 10am – 3pm. Tel: 020 8438 0799

The MS Society is the UK’s largest charity for people affected by Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – about 85,000 people in the UK. The MS Society provides information and support in the UK to anyone affected by MS from our network of over 350 local branches. The MS National Centre is a national source of authoritative advice, a place where learning and teaching about MS can be shared, and a focal point for the UK-wide MS Society.

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