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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 4, No. 4 - July/August 2012

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Multiple Sclerosis

By Dr. Reshad Malik

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that affects the nerves. It is the most common long-term nerve condition among young adults worldwide. It mainly affects people around the ages of 20 - 40 years old and is more common in women than in men.

What happens in MS?

Usually your nerves carry messages or impulses from all parts of your body to your brain. Your brain then processes these impulses and you experience them as touch, vision, sound, smell and taste. Your brain then sends impulses back to your body, which allow you to react to these sensations.

These impulses travel along your nerves very quickly thanks to a protein that covers the nerves, called myelin. Myelin insulates the nerve, and ensures the impulses travel as quickly and efficiently as possible to the brain and back to the body.

In MS, your immune system, which normally defends your body from invading bugs, starts to attack the myelin. The reasons for this are not currently fully understood. The damage this causes disrupts the travelling impulses, causing them to slow down, distort or not reach their destination
at all. This can lead to the symptoms of MS.

What are the symptoms of MS?

MS has a wide range of symptoms, and it will affect people differently. The main symptoms involve problems with:

  • Vision
  • Balance
  • Tiredness
  • Bladder issues
  • Muscle spasms or stiffness
  • Memory & emotions

If you notice any of these symptoms over a long period of time, you should visit your doctor. You may have a scan which can check if the myelin's been damaged or not.

What types of MS are there?

MS can be classified into relapsing-remitting MS which is the most common type, and progressive MS.

Relapsing-remitting MS involves episodes of symptoms that may last for weeks (relapses), followed by relatively symptom-free periods (remission). During the relapses, your immune system attacks the myelin, while during
the remission phases, your nerves try to repair the damage.

Progressive MS occurs when the damage to the myelin is so great, that even after repair, the impulses are still unable to travel efficiently down the nerves. After recurrent attacks by your immune system, this damage can become more and more extensive, causing the symptoms to worsen.

Can MS be treated?

There is no cure for MS, but there are various ways the symptoms of MS can be tackled. Disease modifying drugs (DMDs) can reduce the number of relapses that you may suffer and can be given as injections, infusions or tablets.

Your doctor will be able to advise on what's best for you. Along with this, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and plenty of exercise can help you stay active as well as help improve your symptoms.

Being diagnosed with MS can be scary and bewildering, but there is help and advice available.

Support from friends, family and your care team can help you take control of your condition, and not let it get in the way of living a full, productive life.

There are also many support groups through which you can meet and share your experiences with others who have been diagnosed with MS.


  • If you notice any of the symptoms listed, contact your GP.
  • There are several types of treatment for MS; your doctor will help you decide which is best for you.
  • There is a lot of support for people with MS, try searching online for your local support group.

About Dr. Reshad Malik

Dr. Reshad Malik is a member of the medical writing team at Medikidz, a charity that provides children and teenagers with informative, accessible and fun comics to help them understand their bodies and illness.

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