Information about MS (multiple sclerosis) indicates that the disease is the leading cause of disability among young adults. MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the transmission of nerve impulses in the central nervous system. Statistics indicate that women are affected by MS at almost twice the rate of men.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, meaning your own immune system is damaging your body. In MS, your immune system specifically attacks the myelin that covers the nerves of your brain and spinal cord, or central nervous system.
Normally, your immune system helps protect you. It does this by sending in white blood cells and special proteins whenever a foreign substance (like a bacterium or virus) invades your body.
But with multiple sclerosis, the immune system mistakenly believes the healthy tissue in your brain and spinal cord are foreign invaders. Immune cells are sent from the blood into the central nervous system, where they produce chemicals that cause inflammation. This inflammation causes the myelin around the nerves to break down, and scar tissue begins to form in its place. This process is called "demyelination."
The name "multiple sclerosis" simply refers to the buildup of scar tissue in the brain and spinal cord. With MS, this scarring, or "sclerosis," happens in multiple locations inside the central nervous system.
As the myelin sheath becomes damaged, the electrical signals have a harder time getting though -- or become blocked entirely. As the damage progresses, this leads to problems with your muscle control, vision, speech, sensation, and even your thinking.
The symptoms of MS and how severe they are vary from person to person. This depends on how much myelin has been lost and what parts of the central nervous system are affected.