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What is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is thought to be an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Surrounding and protecting the nerve fibers of the CNS is a fatty tissue called myelin, which helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses. In MS, myelin is lost in multiple areas, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis. These damaged areas are also known as plaques or lesions. Sometimes the nerve fiber itself is damaged or broken. People with MS can expect one of four clinical courses of disease, each of which might be mild, moderate, or severe. MS does not discriminate against race, sex or ethnic background. Approximately 400,000 Americans acknowledge having MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed with the disease. Worldwide, MS may affect 2.5 million individuals.