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MS Awareness Week will be observed March 12–19, which makes this a good time to learn about who might be at risk of developing this potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord.
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, affects nearly 1 million people living in the U.S., according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. With MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers, and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.
Signs and symptoms of MS can differ greatly from person to person and over the course of the disease, depending on the location of affected nerve fibers. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.
Most people with MS have a relapsing-remitting disease course. This means that they experience periods of new symptoms or relapses that develop over days or weeks, and usually improve partially or completely. These relapses are followed by quiet periods of disease remission that can last months or even years.
The cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown, but these factors may increase your risk:
Connect with others talking about MS in the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.
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