About MS – Multiple Sclerosis

What is MS?                                                  

MS is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that affects around 100,000 people in the UK.  MS causes the immune system that normally fights infection to think that the myelin sheath around nerve fibres and axons is foreign and to attack it.  This interrupts messages to and from the brain, via the spinal cord and the complex system of nerves that connect to muscles and other body parts.  Messages become distorted, slow down, fail to get through completely or short-circuit causing problems with a variety of movements, sensory perception, emotions, thinking and the function of body parts.  The myelin sheath can partially or completely heal if the inflammation reduces.  If not, scarring (plaques) can occur and the damage becomes more permanent.


It is not easy to diagnose MS as there is no single test and symptoms can be similar to other diseases.  A ‘clinical diagnosis’ is made from an examination, medical history, results of a number of tests, often an MRI scan and the elimination of other conditions.

Types of MS

  • One episode of illness – some people may only ever experience one ‘attack’ of MS
  • Benign MS – this label is given to people with very little or no disability who have not deteriorated after 10-20 years. They may still have relapses and some problems.
  • Relapsing Remitting MS – the majority of people are initially diagnosed with  ‘relapsing remitting MS’ where attacks are followed by remissions. Symptoms may improve and sometimes disappear.  Invariably they fail to recover to the level they were at before the exacerbation.
  • Secondary Progressive – some people’s diagnosis will change to ‘secondary progressive MS’ when they have continued to deteriorate for 6 months. 
  • Primary Progressive – only a small number, usually diagnosed when they are older, have ‘primary progressive MS’ where they experience increasing disability and a steady worsening of symptoms.  Their MS is progressive from the beginning with no remissions or relapses.

Can other illnesses mimic MS?

Hughes Syndrome, often referred to as ‘Sticky Blood Syndrome’, mimics MS as many symptoms are the same or similar and has sometimes mistakenly been diagnosed as MS.  A blood test is now available to diagnose Hughes Syndrome. (See article on ‘Hughes Syndrome’ in MSRC New Pathways magazine – Nov/Dec 2002 page 10 – Hughes Syndrome).

Taken from Multiple Sclerosis Q / A  June A Skeggs www.yoga-health-eduction.org.uk updated Oct. 2011

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