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Multiple Sclerosis: Understanding Disease Progression, Pain, and Function
A Clinical Primer

Multiple Sclerosis: An Introduction to Disease Management

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the nervous system affecting the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. Experts share everything clinicians need to know about MS.

As a disease of the central nervous system affecting the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord, multiple sclerosis (MS) presents with a myriad of physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms of varying degrees of severity and duration depending on disease progression. Some people experience a single episode of MS-like symptoms lasting at least 1 day that does not rise to the level of a diagnosis, while others – the majority of people with MS – experience symptoms on and off for years without significant disease progression. Of these, about half will transition to a more debilitating form of MS with decreased neurologic function. Still others, fortunately in the minority, develop steadily progressive disease with worsening symptoms and no periods of remission.

As a result, individuals with MS do not experience a predictable linear course but rather, an up and down wave where periods of high symptoms are interspersed with periods of low or no symptoms. For these patients, slowing disease activity and delaying disease progression is increasingly possible with appropriate treatment. Understanding that MS is not necessarily a single prognosis is important for patients to hear given the fear that this disease can generate (see more on how to explain an MS diagnosis to a patient). That said, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis are and can be quite debilitating and impact quality of life, thereby mandating the need to slow disease activity as early as possible and to delay progression for as long as possible.

Disease management begins with recognition and diagnosis of MS in patient populations that new data show are at higher risk of disease development than previously thought, such as African Americans. This primer offers clinicians an overview of MS disease progression, including prevalence and types of MS, symptoms, comorbidities, and treatment approaches.

–Introduction reported by Mary Beth Nierengarten
 

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Last updated on: September 1, 2021
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