Learning the basics of MS
can help you support your
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MS
Educating yourself about MS is the first step to understanding and helping a loved one with their condition. Here are some basic topics to get you up to speed.
WHO GETS MS?
People with MS often feel isolated, but they are certainly not alone. More than 2 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with MS-including 400,000 people in the U.S.
- While anyone can get MS, it is at least twice as common in women as in men
- While people of all ethnic groups can get MS, it is more common in Caucasians of northern European descent
- While people of all ages can get MS, it is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50
Before talking about the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), it's important first to understand what causes the MS disease process:
T- and B-cells are important because they help us fight disease. MS is an autoimmune disease where some T- and B-cells get the wrong message and also attack the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord. The damaged areas can form scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name. These scars interfere with nerve impulses traveling through the CNS, which produces the variety of symptoms seen in MS.
When looking at the effect MS has on the body, there are 3 key measures of MS disease activity:
Relapses are episodes that last at least 24 hours and often get better over time. Relapses can affect many different functions (vision, sense of touch, walking, balance, etc). Which symptoms develop depends on where the attack affects the CNS
- Disability progression
Over time, MS can make walking and other basic activities more and more difficult. This process is known as disability progression
- MRI outcomes
Lesions appear as spots on your MRI. These are areas of inflammation and/or damage to the CNS, including the brain. Sometimes, the disease is more or less severe than the number of spots on an MRI would suggest. There are a number of prescription treatments that have been shown to slow disability progression and reduce relapse frequency
TYPES OF MS
People with MS usually experience 1 of 4 distinct types of MS. Everyone experiences MS differently, so 2 people with the same type of MS may have very different symptoms. Note that AUBAGIO is only indicated for the treatment of relapsing forms of MS (RMS).
People with this type of MS have clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function. These attacks-which are called relapses or exacerbations-are also followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions), during which no disease progression occurs. Approximately 85% of people with MS are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS
In this relatively rare course of MS (5%), people experience steadily worsening disease from the beginning, but with clear attacks of worsening neurologic function along the way. They may or may not experience some recovery following these relapses, but the disease continues to progress without remissions
Following an initial period of relapsing-remitting MS, many people develop a secondary-progressive disease course in which the disease worsens more steadily, with or without occasional relapses, minor recoveries (remissions), or plateaus. Approximately 50% of people with relapsing-remitting MS developed this form of the disease within 10 years of initial diagnosis
This disease course is characterized by slowly worsening neurologic function from the beginning-with no distinct relapses or remissions. The rate of progression may vary over time, with occasional plateaus and temporary minor improvements. Approximately 10% of people are diagnosed with primary-progressive MS
THE IMPORTANCE OF MRI
MRI provides detailed images that allow doctors to learn more about what's going on inside the body than they can from a physical exam or an X-ray. Since MRI can reveal disease activity (seen as lesions in the central nervous system, like the brain or spinal cord), even if your loved one is not experiencing symptoms, his or her doctor may order an MRI on a regular basis (eg, every year) to monitor MS activity.*
|*||The exact relationship between MRI outcomes and disability progression in MS is unknown.|
Types of CNS lesions
There are different types of lesions in MS, which doctors can identify by their appearance on MRI. These lesions can give your loved one's doctor a sense of how much damage has occurred, and how recently it occurred:
Gadolinium (Gd) enhancing T1 lesions
These are short-term lesions that show new inflammation or current disease activity in the brain
T1 lesions or "Black Holes"
These are long-term lesions that show the disease history and areas of brain tissue loss or scarring. Black holes can be permanent
These are long-term lesions that show the overall effect of the disease on the brain. Some experts think these lesions are the strongest MRI predictor of future disease progression
YOU NEED IT
Register now for AUBAGIO treatment information, exclusive online features and positive approaches to living with MS.Subscribe Now
Learn from MS experts in your area—from neurologists to other people with MS.