Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic condition in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath (which protects nerves) in the brain and spinal cord. This nerve damage interferes with communication between the brain and the body, leading to a wide range of symptoms.
MS symptoms vary greatly from person to person, but can include:
Doctors usually use multiple tests in the diagnosis process that also help rule out other potential disorders. Your doctor may perform a physical exam, blood tests, MRIs and/or a spinal tap, in addition to looking at your medical and family history.
There are four different types of MS:
Although symptoms can be debilitating during flare-ups, MS is rarely fatal. The life expectancy for someone with MS is somewhat lower than average, but this lifespan discrepancy continues to diminish with the introduction of new treatments and research.
The data on a direct connection between multiple sclerosis and celiac disease is mixed. One study from 2011 looking at 72 people with MS found celiac disease in 11% of the cohort. This is higher than the around 1% of those in the general population who develop celiac disease. The same study found celiac disease in 32% of the first-degree relatives of those with multiple sclerosis. A separate study found antibodies to gluten in those with MS, but not in controls.
There is currently no cure for MS, but there are more than a dozen FDA-approved treatments. Treatment options vary depending on the type of MS, but most MS patients rely on a combination of immunosuppressant medications, symptom management and physical therapy.
About one third of patients will start using mobility aids, such as canes or wheelchairs, roughly 20 years after diagnosis.