Multiple sclerosis owes its name to the Greek word skleros, which means hard. The many (or multiple) areas of hardened scarring (or sclerosis) of the disease are caused by the destruction of myelin … the protective coating of the nervous system fibers.

This myelin damage, also known as demyelination, can cause unpredictable episodes of attacks to the nervous system that can vary widely from person to person. In more mild cases of multiple sclerosis (MS), the demyelination process is minimal and will only mildly affect the person. Others with more considerable myelin damage in critical areas of the nervous system will have more rapid progression to serious disability.

In between this mild-to-severe continuum of experiences, most people with MS will spend time on a roller coaster of attacks and remissions. For many, even though the incidence of clinical attacks may lessen over time, the disability becomes more evident with fewer clear-cut remissions and more lingering impairments.

In general, the prevailing viewpoint is that the older you are at MS onset, the more likely you are to have problems with residual symptoms that may accumulate, or resist going away completely.

Because of the unique nature of MS and the wide variety of symptoms manifested by the illness, conventional wisdom dictates that most people will experience MS in different ways. Not every person will have every possible symptom of MS. Some will have symptoms that come and go. Others will have problems that persist indefinitely. An unfortunate few will find that their health declines more rapidly.

Although MS is considered a uniquely unpredictable disease, there is a generally accepted method for sorting MS into distinct categories. Most cases of MS fall into one of these disease patterns, although not always very neatly. A small minority of individuals with MS will find that their disease behavior defies typecasting of any kind.

The 5 Types of MS


Symptoms show little or no progression after the initial attack. There is complete recovery with no permanent disability. This type of MS sufferer tends to exhibit sensory symptoms, such as numbness and pins-and-needles feelings. In addition, there is generally an absence of motor dysfunction, such as gait disturbances or tremors.

Relapsing-Remitting (RR)

This type of MS is characterized by a series of attacks followed by complete or partial remissions. New symptoms may appear, then lessen or disappear.

As time progresses, existing symptoms may become more severe and former problems may return. Symptoms can vary in duration, lasting any number of days or months.

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