How Does Multiple Sclerosis Affect The Brain – Multiple sclerosis can affect the white and gray matter of the brain. This can cause neurological symptoms, including fatigue and memory loss.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic condition of the central nervous system that involves the brain and spinal cord. Experts have long known that MS affects the white matter in the brain, but research published in 2017 suggests that it also affects the gray matter.

How Does Multiple Sclerosis Affect The Brain

How Does Multiple Sclerosis Affect The Brain

Early and consistent treatment can help limit the effects of MS on the brain and other parts of the body. This, in turn, can help reduce or prevent symptoms.

Multiple Sclerosis: Effects On The Brain

Read on to learn more about the different types of brain tissue and how MS can affect them.

MS can damage the white and gray matter in the brain. Over time, this can cause physical and cognitive symptoms, but early treatment can help.

Disease-modifying therapies can help limit the damage caused by MS. Many medications and other treatments are also available to treat the symptoms of the disease.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about the possible effects of MS, as well as treatment options.

Multiple Sclerosis With Dr. Annette Okai

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Our experts are constantly monitoring health and wellness and we update our articles as new information becomes available. In MS, the body’s immune system attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Experts don’t know what causes multiple sclerosis, but they have identified trends in who gets it.

In multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the nerve sheaths of the brain and spinal cord (myelin). This interferes with their ability to send signals to the rest of the body.

How Does Multiple Sclerosis Affect The Brain

Autoimmune disease: Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. In MS, immune system cells attack myelin, the sheath that covers nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).

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Myelin and sclerosis: Myelin is a sheath of fatty tissue that protects and insulates nerve fibers, like the insulation around a wire. Myelin helps electrical signals travel along nerve fibers. Damage to myelin and nerve fibers is called demyelination. The scar tissue that forms is called sclerosis.

Disrupted signals: An injury can slow or block the electrical signals that carry information between the central nervous system and the rest of the body. This can cause problems with vision, movement, muscle strength, coordination and thinking.

Results vary: Symptoms and rate of disease progression vary from patient to patient. Some people have few or mild symptoms. Some go months or years with little or no symptoms. For other MS it becomes disabling. There is no cure for MS yet, but treatment can slow the disease and manage symptoms. Most patients can expect a normal life expectancy.

How common is MS? A 2017 study included more than 900,000 US adults with MS, more than double previous estimates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has implemented a system to collect data on neurological conditions, starting with MS and Parkinson’s disease.

Genentech: Multiple Sclerosis

Age: MS is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 50, although it can occur in younger and older people.

Gender: MS is two to three times more common in women. Research suggests that hormones may play a role.

Race/Ethnicity: MS occurs in almost all ethnic groups, but is more common in Caucasians of Northern European descent.

How Does Multiple Sclerosis Affect The Brain

Genetics: Scientists do not fully understand the genetic pattern in MS. It is not directly inherited, but the risk is higher in people who have a close relative (parent, sibling) with MS.

What To Know About Multiple Sclerosis

Geography: MS is more common in areas furthest from the equator. However, not everyone in the same area is equally at risk. Some groups that live very far north — such as the Inuit in the North American Arctic — almost never develop MS.

Experts don’t yet know what causes MS. They suspect that it is a complex combination of factors. For example, an infection can trigger a genetic predisposition to MS. However, MS may be related to a problem with the immune system or an environmental cause.

Because multiple sclerosis affects the nerves that send signals throughout the body, symptoms can vary widely. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

Multiple sclerosis can cause many symptoms that may come and go. You may have some symptoms, but not all.

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MS experts now believe there are four types (or courses) of MS, including one precursor. Each is different, but each has periods when the disease:

This is the first episode of symptoms caused by inflammation and myelin damage. The episode lasts at least 24 hours. This could be a sign that someone will develop MS.

If an MRI shows brain lesions similar to those seen in MS, the patient is likely to be diagnosed with MS. If no lesions are found, a diagnosis of MS is unlikely.

How Does Multiple Sclerosis Affect The Brain

About 85 percent of people with multiple sclerosis are first diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. In this type, patients have clear attacks of new or worsening symptoms that last for days, weeks, or months.

Understanding Multiple Sclerosis

Attacks are followed by periods of partial or complete recovery that can last months or years. Sometimes the symptoms disappear. Sometimes some symptoms remain and become permanent. The disease does not appear to worsen between remissions.

About 15 percent of people with MS have this type, with symptoms getting worse over time from the beginning. Later, PPMS patients may experience relapses with rapid worsening of symptoms followed by some recovery.

Most people with relapsing-remitting MS eventually develop SPMS. With this type, symptoms worsen over time. People with secondary progressive MS may also have relapses followed by some recovery.

Many conditions are similar to multiple sclerosis. Some, like MS, are demyelinating disorders, meaning the body attacks and damages the myelin sheath around nerves. Includes: Medically Reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D., MSN – Colleen M. Story – Updated June 23, 2023

How Multiple Sclerosis Affects White And Gray Matter In The Brain

Multiple sclerosis (MS) causes white blood cells to attack your neurons (nerve cells). The resulting damage and scarring to neurons can slow communication between the brain and the body.

If you or a loved one has multiple sclerosis (MS), you already know the symptoms. They can include muscle weakness, problems with coordination and balance, problems with vision, thinking and memory, and sensations such as numbness, tingling or “pins and needles”.

You may not know how this autoimmune disease actually affects the body. How does it affect the messaging system that helps your brain control your actions?

How Does Multiple Sclerosis Affect The Brain

Nerve damage can occur anywhere in the spinal cord and/or brain, so the symptoms of MS can vary from person to person. Depending on the location and severity of the white blood cell attack, symptoms may include:

Spinal Cord Involvement In Multiple Sclerosis And Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorders

MS attacks tissues in the brain and spinal cord, known as the central nervous system (CNS). This system includes a complex network of nerve cells that are responsible for sending, receiving and interpreting information from all parts of the body.

In everyday life, the spinal cord sends information to the brain through these nerve cells. The brain then interprets the information and controls how you respond to it. You can think of the brain as a central computer, and the spinal cord as a cable between the brain and the rest of the body.

Nerve cells (neurons) carry messages from one part of the body to another through electrical and chemical impulses. Each has a cell body, dendrites, and an axon. Dendrites are thin net-like structures that branch out from the cell body. They act as receptors, receiving signals from other nerve cells and transmitting them to the cell body.

An axon, also called a nerve fiber, is a tail-like projection that serves the opposite function of dendrites: it sends electrical impulses to other nerve cells.

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A fatty material known as myelin covers the axon of a nerve cell. This sheath protects and insulates the axon much like a rubber sheath protects and insulates an electrical cable.

Myelin is composed of lipids (fatty substances) and proteins. In addition to protecting the axon, it also helps in the rapid travel of nerve signals from one part of the body to another or to the brain. MS attacks myelin, breaks it down and interrupts nerve signals.

Scientists believe that MS starts with inflammation. Infection-fighting white blood cells triggered by an unknown force enter the central nervous system and attack nerve cells.

How Does Multiple Sclerosis Affect The Brain

Scientists hypothesize that the latent virus, when activated, can cause inflammation. A genetic trigger or a malfunction of the immune system may also be to blame. Regardless of the spark, the white executioners go on the offensive.

Can Pilates Help With Multiple Sclerosis (ms)

When inflammation increases, MS is activated. The white blood cell attack damages the myelin that protects the nerve fiber (axon). Imagine a damaged electrical cable with visible wires and you will get a picture of what nerve fibers look like without myelin. This process is called demyelination.

Just as a damaged electrical cable can cause a short circuit or cause intermittent power surges, a damaged nerve fiber will be less efficient at transmitting nerve impulses. This can trigger MS symptoms.

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