What is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is not one size fits all. MS is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective myelin sheath that covers nerves - resulting in damage that disrupts communications between the brain and the body. And it can take on many different forms in those who are diagnosed.

Approximately 400,000 people in the US are affected by MSApproximately 400,000 people in the US are affected by MS, and women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the rate of diagnosis is double the rest of the country. Scientists are still determining exact reasons, but likely factors may be vitamin D deficiency, genetic predisposition and environmental triggers.

MS can be silent, as some people are symptom free most of their life. Or it can come in the form of severe symptoms that never diminish - ones that are sensory, physical, and/or mental. Some people may feel impaired coordination, anxiety, or vision irregularity. Others may experience tremors in the limbs, slurred speech, and issues urinating.  Symptoms vary but the common cause is issues with information exchange between the nervous system and body.

MS has no cure, but physical therapy and medication are frequently used to alleviate symptoms and slow disease progression. Some MS patients use immunosuppressive drugs that reduce the immune response, while others use chemotherapy, or steroids. Alternative or supplemental treatments include acupuncture, counseling, or support groups. Additionally, aerobic activity is one way people living with MS maintain cardiovascular health.Benaroya Research Institute

At Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI), scientists conduct lab research to understand the basic mechanisms leading to the development of MS and ways to target them. BRI researchers and colleagues discovered a subset of immune system cells which are believed to cause MS and other autoimmune diseases. They are studying these cells to determine how to inhibit their harmful function and to clarify the nature of disease initiation and progression to better target therapy.

Additionally, clinical trials are ongoing to evaluate novel therapies in MS. BRI has a Clinical Trial Registry individuals can join to learn about clinical trials that may be appropriate for them.

BRI’s MS biorepository collects volunteers’ blood samples and medical histories to learn more about the variance of MS in different people. People with MS and family members without MS can also join the biorepository to help with medical research.

For more information about MS, visit our partners: MS Society and MS Association of America.

Fighting Diseases

February 8, 2018

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