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 150,000 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
  • People from many different ethnic backgrounds can get MS
  • MS is  two and a half times more common in women than men
  • In the UK people are most likely to find out they have MS in their thirties and forties. 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).