Multiple Sclerosis (MS) actually means 'many scars'. These words are used to describe a major disease of the nervous system, which literally becomes 'scarred' and stops functioning properly. A very simple way of describing what goes on in MS is to compare the nerves that run throughout our bodies to electrical wiring - like the wiring in a house. The wire carries electrical signals, and is insulated by a plastic coating. Our nerves conduct signals around the body - rather like the wire, and are also insulated. The insulating material is called 'Myelin', and it is this that gets damaged in MS.
Areas of the Myelin become inflamed (as yet the cause of this is uncertain), the body then tries to heal this damage with a little 'scar' or 'plaque' which prevents the signals from passing easily through the affected nerve any more. Short circuits and muddled messages happen instead of easy conduction - just like damaged wiring.
The Nervous System runs all the main functions of the body. The illustration below shows how nerves are connected to the brain and fan outwards from the Spinal cord. In MS, damage can occur almost anywhere, but usually takes place in the brain and the spinal cord itself.
Symptoms of MS are varied and can include; numbness in fingers and toes, blindness, loss of the use of limbs, incontinence and having difficulty swallowing.
Multiple Sclerosis affects more women than men, at a ratio of about 3:2. It can be called a 'young persons' disease as most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 years. The symptoms can disable very rapidly, or remain relatively mild. There is currently no cure for MS, though various treatments are available for the symptoms of the condition.