Multiple sclerosis is a puzzle that has perplexed medical science since it was first described by the French neurologist Charcot in 1868. The disease affects the central nervous system and can, to varying degrees, interfere with the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
Since identification, MS has been the subject of intense, world-wide research but still its cause and cure remain elusive.
A simple explanation is conveyed by the term itself. Sclerosis is a Greek word meaning "hardened tissue or scars" and multiple means many. Recurring episodes of MS can cause many scars to appear in the central nervous system as a result of the breakdown of the myelin, the insulating material that covers the nerve fibers. This can result in impairment of motor, sensory and cognitive functions to a greater or lesser extent.
But multiple describes other aspects of what is often a frustratingly unpredictable disease. Episodes can occur at varying time intervals affecting different areas of the central nervous system. There is no one symptom that indicates the presence of MS. No single test can establish an accurate diagnosis.
It can be benign - in rare cases apparently disappearing altogether after one or two episodes. Or it can progress steadily over many years, bringing about a slow deterioration in an individual's capabilities.
Although we do not yet understand why some people are susceptible and others are not.
Source - MS Australia