Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. About 400,000 people in the United States have MS, including about 10,000 people in Wisconsin.
In MS, the immune system attacks nerve fibers and the fatty coating (called myelin) that surrounds them and acts as an insulator, allowing electrical impulses to travel along nerves quickly and efficiently. When the myelin is destroyed or damaged, scars or "sclerosis" develop, which interrupt nerve signaling. Symptoms of MS include loss of vision, muscle weakness, paralysis, coordination difficulties, numbness or tingling, fatigue, bowel and bladder problems, slurred speech, memory problems, decreased concentration, slower thinking and sexual dysfunction.
Most people who have MS are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45, and 70 percent of patients are women.
Types of MS
- About 85 percent of people with MS have the "relapsing-remitting" form of the disease. They experience periodic relapses or exacerbations followed by variable degrees of recovery.
- About half of people who are first diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS later develop secondary-progressive MS, a form of the disease characterized by a slow, steady progression of symptoms, with or without periodic exacerbations.
- Ten percent of MS patients have what is known as primary-progressive disease, in which the disease slowly but steadily worsens from the beginning, with no distinct exacerbations or recoveries.
- About 5 percent of MS patients have progressive-relapsing MS, a steady worsening disease from the outset, interspersed with exacerbations.
Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Care The Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Multiple Sclerosis Clinic, a member of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers and recognized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, provides comprehensive, individualized care to patients with MS. Our multidisciplinary team includes a neurologist, a neuropsychologist, a nurse-practitioner with special certification in MS treatment, nurses, and physical, occupational and speech therapists. We also draw on the expertise of specialists in urology, rehabilitation, ophthalmology, neuro-ophthalmology and neuroradiology.
Our experts are recognized regionally and nationally for their leadership in MS research and for their aggressive approach to treatment. We use state-of-the-science imaging technology techniques to help accurately pinpoint areas of damage in the brain caused by MS. Treatments are tailored to patients' specific needs. For patients with relapsing-remitting MS, treatment typically involves drugs called immunomodulators, which help slow the rate of relapse by decreasing inflammatory processes involved in myelin destruction. For more aggressive forms of MS, we use the full range of currently available immune suppresant agents.
In addition to treating the disease and its symptoms, we provide a strong focus on patient education, helping patients and their families learn to adapt the challenges that the disease presents.
Last Review Date: May 26, 2010
Online Editor(s): Richard Petre