What you need to know about multiple sclerosis
3/20/2023 by Amanda Lee, APRN, C.N.P., D.N.P.
You may have been asked to sponsor someone taking part in an MS bike or walk event, or maybe a colleague has multiple sclerosis (MS). But how much do you know about this chronic disease? Check out these FAQs.
What is MS?
MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body. This chronic autoimmune disorder is marked by periods of relapse and remission, or symptom-free periods. People with MS may have difficulty with walking or vision, and concentration problems.
Who gets MS?
It's more common in women than men; 2 to 3 times the number of women than men get the disease. Two-thirds of patients are diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40, but the disease can appear at almost any age. MS is most common in northern parts of the world. About 400,000 people in the U.S. live with MS, and 10,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
What causes MS?
While it's not entirely understood why MS happens, current research indicates it may be caused by many factors. People who have MS seem to have a dysfunction in their immune system and may have been exposed to certain environmental factors in common. A great deal of research is looking at genetic factors linked to MS.
When should I see a health care professional?
If you have any of these symptoms or other concerns, make an appointment with your primary care clinician:
- Blurred or double vision.
- Numbness, tingling or inability to move part of your body.
- Difficulty walking or a change in the way you walk.
- Bladder dysfunction, not being able to control your bladder.
- Electrical sensation when flexing your neck (moving your chin to your chest).
What will my health care professional do?
Your clinician will want to talk about your symptoms, including when they occur, how long they've been happening and what makes them worse or better. You'll probably undergo simple tests in the office to look at your nerve function. If your clinician has concerns about your nerve function, you may be asked to have an MRI and/or see a neurologist. If your clinician is concerned about your vision, you may be referred to an eye doctor for a complete exam.
Amanda Lee, APRN, C.N.P., D.N.P., is a nurse practitioner in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson at Mayo Family Clinic Northwest. She enjoys caring for patients of all ages with a focus on preventive care and chronic disease management.