MS Facts: Did you know.

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(NC)-Canadians have one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world.

Why? No one knows, but multiple sclerosis tends to affect people living in colder climates more frequently.

What is MS?

. MS is a a chronic, progressive, sometimes devastating disease affecting about 50,000 Canadians (170 per 100,000). It can attack any part of the central nervous system, including: the brain, spinal cord, optic nerves. In effect, MS "short circuits" the nervous system, causing disruptions in the senses, motor abilities and thought processes.

. Managing MS can be a challenge physically, financially, emotionally and socially.

What causes MS?

. No one knows for certain what causes MS. Scientists believe it is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune system attacks its own cells and tissues, but they do not yet know what triggers this immune response.

Who gets MS?

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. MS principally affects young white adults; it is the most common neurological disorder for this age group. MS appears most often between age 20 and 40. New evidence suggests it may be active in people as young as 15. Women are twice as likely to develop MS as men.

What are the common symptoms of MS?

. The symptoms depend on which areas of the nervous system have been affected. Over the course of their disease, people usually experience more than one, but not necessarily all of the following symptoms:

. Fatigue

. Depression

. Spasticity

. Problems concentrating

. Memory changes

. Pain

. Visual loss

. Double vision

. Unsteadiness and dizziness

. Weakness

. Shaking and loss of coordination

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. Numbness and tingling

. Bladder and/or bowel problems

. Sexual problems

. Muscle weakness, stiffness and/or spasms

. Speech difficulties

Are there different types of MS?

Yes, there are two known forms of the disease.

1. Relapsing-remitting MS - there are clearly defined relapses with either full or partial recovery. Between relapses, the disease does not appear to worsen.

2. Primary-progressive MS - the disease worsens from the onset; however, there are occasional levelling-off periods and sometimes temporary minor improvements.

Is MS difficult to diagnose? Yes, MS is difficult to diagnose because:

. Early symptoms tend to come and go.

. Other medical conditions and central nervous system disorders have the same symptoms.

. There is no single test to definitively confirm or rule out MS.

How is MS diagnosed?

Diagnosing MS is complex. A neurologist conducts a combination of the tests and exams listed below to provide a definite diagnosis:

. A medical history to identify potential previous MS symptoms;

. A neurological examination to test the brain and spinal cord;

. Testing of visual, auditory and other responses;

. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);

. A lumbar puncture;

. Brainstem evoked responses (BER) and electro-encephalograms (EEG).

How is MS treated?

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Although there is no cure for MS, in Canada there are two kinds of therapies used to manage the disease - interferon-betas and COPAXONE

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