Employee & Community Health

What you need to know about MS

3/25/2019 by Amanda Knutsen, APRN, CNP, DNP

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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. 

Q: What is multiple sclerosis?

A: Multiple sclerosis (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 walking, vision and concentration problems. 

Q: Who gets MS?

A: It's more common in women than men; two to three 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. 

Q: What causes MS?

A: 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. 

Q: When should I see a doctor?

A: If you have any of these symptoms, or other concerns, make an appointment with your primary care provider:

  • 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)

Q: What will my doctor do? 

A: Your provider 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 provider has concerns about your nerve function, they may ask you to have an MRI and/or see a neurologist. If they're concerned about your vision, they may ask that you see an eye doctor for a complete exam. 

Amanda Knutsen, APRN, CNP, DNP, is a nurse practitioner in Employee and Community Health (ECH) at Mayo Family Clinic Northwest. She enjoys caring for patients of all ages with a focus on preventive care and chronic disease management.