Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Checkup Guide
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Optimal treatment can reduce the frequency of relapses and slow disease progression. Assess your symptoms and personal journey as a step in guiding your care.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, unpredictable, and potentially disabling disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). This system includes the brain and spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects about 1 in 500 to 1 in 1000 Canadians and is more common in women. It often strikes people during their peak years of their career and family life.

What are multiple sclerosis risk factors?
MS can occur at any age, but it is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40. For many people, these are the key years for education, careers, and raising a family. MS is 3 times as common in women as in men, and is also more common in people with Northern European ancestry. Although MS is not directly passed from parent to child, research indicates that genetic factors might make certain individuals more likely to develop MS. An estimated 100,000 Canadians are living with MS. Each day, 3 more Canadians are diagnosed with MS. 

What causes multiple sclerosis?
Healthy nerves are covered by a protective layer known as the myelin sheath. This covering helps to speed electrical signals in the brain. In MS, researchers think that the immune system sees the myelin sheath as foreign and attacks it, leading to patches of damage and inflammation. It is not known what chain of events starts this damage, but once the injury occurs, electrical signals in the brain are slowed down or interrupted.

How can a doctor tell if you have multiple sclerosis?
There is no single test to diagnose MS. Doctors make a diagnosis of MS based on your medical history, a neurologic exam (which measures reflexes, eye movements, limb strength, sensation, and coordination), and a variety of tests such as:

  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a type of scan that can take pictures of your brain
  • evoked potential, which measures nerve signals from your body to your brain (in MS, signals are slower and weaker)
  • spinal fluid examination (lumbar puncture), which may give doctors more information about what may be causing your symptoms
Multple Sclerosis Doctor Discussion Guide
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Create a personalized Doctor Discussion Guide to help ensure you are getting optimal treatment in managing your MS.