What is MS graphic shows woman sat at a table on a see saw that's tipping to the left

The facts about MS

MS stands for multiple sclerosis. It's a neurological condition, meaning it affects your nerves. MS happens when your immune system attacks your nerves by mistake. It damages nerves in your brain and spinal cord.

‘Sclerosis’ means scarring and refers to the scars (also called lesions) that MS causes in your brain or spinal cord. These show up in magnetic image resonance (MRI) scans. It's ‘multiple’ sclerosis because the lesions happen in more than one place.

8 facts about MS

  • MS is a condition that affects your brain and spinal cord (your central nervous system)
  • MS is a life long condition but people don’t usually die from it
  • More than 130,000 people in the UK have MS
  • MS is the most common central nervous system condition that affects young adults
  • MS isn't infectious or contagious so you can't catch it from meeting someone with MS
  • Everyone's MS is different so no two people, even if they’re closely related, will have the same type of symptoms, or have them as badly
  • There is no cure for MS yet, but there are lots of ways to manage your symptoms. For many people, there are also drugs that can slow it down
  • Lots of MS symptoms are invisible, so you can't tell by looking at someone if they have MS, or what they're going through.

Who gets MS?

  • MS is more common in countries furthest away from the tropical countries around the equator
  • MS is nearly three times more common in women than men
  • In the UK people are most likely to find out they have MS in their thirties, forties and fifties. But the first signs of MS often start years earlier.
  • You don't inherit MS, but family members do have a slightly higher risk of developing it. As well as genes you get from your parents, MS might be caused by certain infections, smoking, being very overweight and being low in vitamin D (which you get from being in the sun).

Make a donation

Help us be there for everyone with MS

  • Please enter an amount

    Our minimum donation is £2, please enter a different amount.

£10could help us support someone calling our MS Helpline

£20could pay for one hour of research to help us understand and manage MS fatigue

£30could help run the MS Forum, giving over 27,000 people a place to come together as a community

Every penny you give us really does help us stop MS.

  • Please enter an amount

    Our minimum donation is £2, please enter a different amount.

£10a month could help stock our research labs with essential supplies

£20a month for a year could help fund a short break for someone with MS

£30a month could help train an MS Helpline volunteer to support hundreds of people with MS

Your regular donation means we can keep funding world class MS research with confidence. Together we will stop MS.

MS researcher at work in lab, using a pipette