Glossary beginning with A

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Access to Work

An Access to Work grant helps pay for practical support if you have a disability, so you can start working, stay in work or start your own business.

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Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis

ADEM (acute disseminated encephalomyelitis) is a brief but intense attack of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that damages the protective myelin layer around the nerve fibres. ADEM often follows an infection and, while rare, is more common in children than in adults. As both the symptoms and the test results for ADEM can be similar to those of MS, it may be difficult for doctors to distinguish between the two. For more information about ADEM, visit the Great Ormond Street Hospital website www.gosh.nhs.uk or the National MS Society website www.nationalmssociety.org and search for ‘ADEM’.

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ADEM

Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is a brief but intense attack of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that damages the protective myelin layer around the nerve fibres. ADEM often follows an infection and, while rare, is more common in children than in adults. As both the symptoms and the test results for ADEM can be similar to those of MS, it may be difficult for doctors to distinguish between the two. For more information about ADEM, visit the Great Ormond Street Hospital website www.gosh.nhs.uk or the National MS Society website www.nationalmssociety.org and search for ‘ADEM’.

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Advance care plan

An advance care plan is used to record your future care and treatment wishes, and will normally be made in partnership with a health care team towards the end of life.

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Advance decision

An 'advance decision to refuse treatment' (previously known as an 'advance directive' or a 'living will') is a decision you can make now to refuse a specific type of treatment at some time in the future. It can be used if you lose the capacity or ability to make the decision yourself at the time of the proposed medical treatment.

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Advance statement

An advance statement allows you to set down your preferences, wishes, beliefs and values regarding your future care. It can act as a guide to anyone in the future who might have to make decisions on your behalf if you lose the capacity to make or communicate these decisions yourself.

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Aetiology

Aetiology is the study of the cause of a particular medical condition. Researchers studying the aetiology of multiple sclerosis (MS) will be studying the causes of MS.

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Aimspro

Aimspro is a goat serum that has been tested for use in MS. This treatment uses serum (the fluid portion of blood) from goats that have been inoculated with a variety of vaccines, to generate neutralising antibodies.

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Alemtuzumab

Alemtuzumab is a licensed treatment for people with active relapsing remitting MS. Its brand name is Lemtrada and it has also been known as Campath.

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Alternative therapies

Complementary and alternative medicine' is the name given to a broad group of health-related therapies and disciplines which are not considered to be part of mainstream medical care. They may be used alongside conventional healthcare and accepted as 'complementing' it, or they may be provided as an 'alternative' to conventional healthcare.

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Amino acids

Amino acids are often called the 'building blocks' of proteins. Each protein is made up of hundreds or thousands of amino acids joined together in long chains.

See also: Peptide

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Annuity

When you start drawing an income from your pension fund you can normally take part of it, typically up to 25%, as a tax free lump sum. You must then convert the remainder of the fund into an annuity. An annuity is provided by an insurance company and pays you a guaranteed regular income for the rest of your life. Your choice of which insurance company you choose to provide your annuity is crucial, because once the annuity has started you cannot change your mind. People with MS may be able to get a special type of annuity, offering more income than a conventional one.

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Anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is the body's response to injury, irritation, or infection. Active lesions in the brain of people with MS are sites of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory treatments aim to reduce or prevent inflammation.

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Antibodies

Antibodies are made in the body by immune cells. Normally they attach to foreign objects in the body, like viruses and bacteria, and mark them to be destroyed by the immune system.

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Anticholinergics

Anticholinergics are drugs that can be prescribed for treating an overactive bladder. They aim to reduce the tendency for the bladder to contract, which can help to relieve both frequency (the need to urinate frequently) and urgency (an inability to hold on).

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Apitherapy

Apitherapy, also known as bee venom therapy, is the medical use of bee venom to treat MS. There is currently no clinical evidence to support this therapy.

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APPG

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for MS is a group of parliamentary supporters who are committed to tackling MS issues, and ensuring that these are raised in parliament.

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Ataxia

Ataxia is a medical term often used in relation to MS-related tremor. It covers a group of symptoms that includes problems with balance and coordination along with tremor.

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Atrophy

Atrophy refers to shrinkage of tissue. In MS, damage to the brain causes it to shrink faster than would normally occur (also known as brain atrophy). This can be seen on an MRI scan.

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Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance is a benefit paid to people aged 65 or over who have an illness or disability and, as a result, need help with personal care or supervision, or both.

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Aubagio

Aubagio is the brand name for teriflunomide, a licensed treatment for people with relapsing remitting MS.

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Autoimmunity

Autoimmune conditions occur where the body's natural defence mechanisms (the immune system) attack the body's own tissue. MS is widely believed to be an autoimmune condition. In MS, the tissue that comes under attack is myelin, which is the coating surrounding nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord.

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Axon

Axons are the long extensions of nerve cells that transmit nerve signals. They communicate with other nerve cells or muscles.

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