Multiple Sclerosis

The doctors and specialists at MaineHealth offer the time, skills and personal attention that people with multiple sclerosis need. Services include advanced imaging tools, expert evaluation and a team approach to MS care and MS treatment.

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a nervous system disease. MS affects the brain and spinal cord. When a patient has MS, the immune system attacks and damages the material around your nerve cells. That material is called myelin. It also attacks the nerves themselves.  No one knows what causes MS.

Who’s at risk of multiple sclerosis?

Who gets MS – and why – is a medical mystery. However, doctors know that:

  • Most patients are between the ages of 20 and 50 when diagnosed with MS;

  • Women are more likely than men to get multiple sclerosis.

  • Genetic factors may play a role

MS symptoms

Multiple sclerosis symptoms vary by each person. Some people may have just a few symptoms and mild MS. Others may have a lot of symptoms. The most common MS symptoms are:

  • Changes in sensation

  • Feeling very tired all the time

  • Walking problems

  • Numbness or tingling

  • Weakness

  • Feeling stiff

  • Muscle spasms

  • Blurry eyesight

  • Eye pain

  • Feeling dizzy

  • Bladder problems

  • Sex problems

  • Constipation or loss of bowel control

  • Pain, especially “electric shock” like pain that radiates to the limbs when the neck is flexed forward

  • Memory, learning and focus problems

  • Depression and mood swings

If you are having MS symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist who has expertise in diagnosing and evaluating patients with MS.

Diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS)

There is no single test that tells doctors if a person has MS. Your doctor or specialist will do a variety of tests and also get a complete medical history. Your doctor also will rule out other medical conditions when making an MS diagnosis.

The following are common screening tests that help doctors confirm an MS diagnosis:

  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging is a scan that provides doctors with pictures of the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body.

  • Lumbar puncture or spinal tap: Long thin needle draws fluid from the lower spine into a syringe. The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is studied in the lab.

  • Evoked potentials (EP): Measures electrical brain activity.

Treating multiple sclerosis

Your primary care provider and several medical specialists may take part in your MS treatment and MS care. Medication can help slow the progress of MS. Physical therapy, medication and other treatments can improve symptoms.