Find out all about clinical trials.
In this section, you or a loved one can find out more about medical treatments, research studies and practical information about multiple sclerosis (MS). Read on to find answers to some of your questions as well as links to other information. Being informed is an important first step towards becoming an active decision-maker in your care plan.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects approximately 2.3 million people worldwide and It's estimated that there are more than 100,000 people diagnosed with MS in the UK. It is a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts communication within the brain and spinal cord and with the rest of the body. In MS, the immune system attacks the substance called myelin that covers and insulates nerve fibres. MS causes damage to nerves and to the cells producing myelin and eventually can cause progressive deterioration leading to disability.
The cause of MS is not known. It is considered an autoimmune disease, meaning that a person’s own immune system attacks the body. Symptoms, severity and disease progression vary widely from person to person.
There are four clinical types of MS:
The effects of MS are many and varied, depending on the type of MS and the individual.
Multiple sclerosis can affect many parts of the body, and disease symptoms and progression are unique to each individual. Common symptoms include the following:
Multiple sclerosis is a complex disease and many factors can affect an individual's health and the course of the disease.
The type and severity of MS symptoms can differ widely from person to person, so treatment plans are usually tailored to an individual's unique circumstances. People with MS need to work closely with their medical professionals and families to create individualised treatment plans. A comprehensive care team may include a primary care physician, neurologist, urologist, mental health specialist, physiatrist, speech pathologist, nutritionist, and physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
Interventions vary, but people with MS may be treated with the following therapies:
For most people, regardless of having multiple sclerosis or not, exercise, healthy eating and good sleeping habits are recommended. A healthy lifestyle can lead to enhanced quality of life. Talk to your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.
Maintain relationships with friends and family, even if it means making lifestyle adjustments such as engaging in fewer physical activities, napping before events and leaving social engagements early to avoid fatigue.
Regular exercise helps reduce depression and fatigue, increases strength and balance, improves cardiovascular function, and can improve bladder and bowel control. Walking on a treadmill, swimming, resistance training, yoga and tai chi are examples of exercises that can be gentle and yet effective. Remember, overheating can cause decompensation in neurological function. By working and exercising for shorter intervals, with intermittent resting intervals, an individual with MS can overcome the challenges of fatigue and overheating.
As with many chronic diseases, stress can worsen MS symptoms. It is especially important to get enough sleep, communicate honestly with your healthcare team and enlist the support of friends, family and professionals as needed.
Even though MS does not require a special diet, eating healthily is important for maintaining energy, avoiding extra stress on joints and generally feeling well.
People with MS may eventually have trouble with daily activities. Devices and technology that assist with walking and driving can help MS patients remain independent and manage their lives for as long as possible. Cooling vests and collars can help during hot summer days.
Please note that the information on this website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for seeking medical advice or treatment from a healthcare professional. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a medical condition or health problem. Speak to a healthcare professional if you have any questions about your health, medical condition, symptoms or treatment options.
NHS Choices website
National MS Society
Funding research, advocating for change and offering professional education, programmes and services, the MS Society is dedicated to helping people with MS to live their best lives, stopping MS in its tracks, restoring what has been lost and ending MS forever.