Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack myelin in your nerves. Myelin is an insulating sheath that protects the axon, which is the part of a neuron responsible for transmitting electrical signals throughout your nervous system. When myelin is damaged, these signals become disrupted, leading to symptoms that can affect the functions of your spinal cord, brain, and eyes.
Multiple sclerosis may affect your vision at first; in fact, optic neuritis can often be a warning sign of MS. Other symptoms include fatigue, loss of coordination, muscle spasms or weakness, tingling, and numbness. When someone experiences an initial episode of multiple sclerosis symptoms, they may initially be diagnosed with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). Not everyone who receives this diagnosis necessarily develops MS.

People who are diagnosed with MS typically have relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), in which symptoms periodically flare up; this can later become secondary progressive MS (SPMS), in which symptoms are more constant due to cumulative nerve damage, though flare-ups can still occur. Some people diagnosed with MS have primary progressive MS (PPMS), in which symptoms are constant and gradually worsen over time without flare-ups.

How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?

Due to the fact that symptoms of multiple sclerosis are associated with many other conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose this disease. There is no specific test for MS, although certain tests can identify key signs; for example, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect lesions on the brain or spine caused by myelin damage. Additionally, an evoked potentials test can gauge how well your nerves are functioning by observing electrical activity in the brain and spine. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam and may perform blood tests

How is multiple sclerosis treated?

No cure exists for multiple sclerosis. As a result, treatment typically focuses on reducing the severity of your symptoms, preventing flare-ups, and slowing the progression of the disease. This may involve a combination of physical rehabilitation, psychiatric counseling, and medications that reduce inflammation and myelin damage. Lifestyle adjustments such as a healthy diet, regular exercise routine, avoidance of alcohol and smoking, and effective stress management techniques can also help.

Learning that you have multiple sclerosis can be frightening, but support and high-quality treatment are available at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Division of Neurology. An NYC multiple sclerosis specialist can develop a treatment plan for you that slows or prevents the progression of this disease, limiting disability and allowing you to live as full and active of a life as possible. To schedule an appointment, please email