By Bruno Gran in The Conversation.
Multiple sclerosis affects millions of people worldwide. It’s a neurological disease characterised by inflammatory lesions in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that cause damage to the myelin sheath – the protective layer around the nerve cells. This causes neurological dysfunction, such as muscle paralysis or loss of sensation. While some degree of spontaneous repair of the sheath occurs naturally, many patients accumulate irreversible disability.
There are two main types of MS, which have a different pattern of symptoms. There is primary progressive MS, a rarer form that affects 15% of patients who have no relapses and remissions, but suffer a slow worsening of symptoms. Then there is the most common form, relapsing-remitting MS, which affects 85% of patients. People with this form have relapses of symptoms that can last for some time before a remission period. And between a half and two thirds of patients with it are thought to go on to develop secondary progressive disease, in which MS-related disability becomes gradually more irreversible.
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