Multiple sclerosis is a chronic neuroimmunologic (both the nervous system and the immunological system are involved) disorder of the central nervous system involving the brain, spinal chord and optic nerves. By means of a mechanism not clearly understood, the protective fatty, insulating substance called myelin sheath that covers the nerve is destroyed.
The inflammatory attacks that produce the characteristic scarring (plaques or patches) of the myelin sheath occur randomly, vary in intensity, and at multiple sites. The course of the disease may advance, relapse, remit, or stabilize. The randomness of the location of plaques or patches affects the nerve?s ability to transmit information (neurotransmission) and causes a wide range of neurological symptoms, which may vary from person to person.
Recently it has been learned that the nerve fibers themselves, (axons), in addition to the myelin sheaths, are affected by the neuroimmunologic attacks. Damage to the nerve cells may be irreversible. As a result, clinicians recommend early intervention with one of the disease-modifying agents (see below).
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