Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve).
MS is a chronic disease, which means it's a disease that a person has for a long time. With MS, the body's own immune cells attack the layer of tissue (called myelin) that surrounds and protects the nerves. Scars then develop that slow down or block the signals that travel between the brain and the body.
Symptoms come and go in episodes or attacks and vary depending on what nerves are affected. They can include vision problems, fatigue or weakness, difficulty with balance or coordination, and slurred speech. They can last for just a couple of days or several months. MS also can become increasingly debilitating with no periods of remission.
MS can be diagnosed at any age, but most people learn of their disease between the ages of 20-40. It is rare in kids.
There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, but medications can help control symptoms, reduce the number of relapses, and slow down the progression of the disease.
People with MS can help manage their symptoms with physical and occupational therapy. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly also contribute to overall health and well-being for people living with MS.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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