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What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.

What are MS symptoms?

Multiple sclerosis signs and symptoms may differ greatly from person to person and over the course of the disease, depending on the location of affected nerve fibers.

Symptoms often affect movement, such as:
  • Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time, or your legs and trunk
  • Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward (Lhermitte sign)
  • Tremor, lack of coordination, or unsteady gait

Vision problems are also common, including:
  • Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
  • Prolonged double vision
  • Blurry vision

Multiple sclerosis symptoms may also include:
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling or pain in parts of your body
  • Problems with sexual, bowel, and bladder function

What causes MS?

The exact cause of MS is not fully understood.

Factors Believed to Increase Risk of Developing MS:

  • Age – MS can occur at any age, but onset usually occurs around 20 and 40 years of age. However, younger and older people can be affected.
  • Sex – Women are more than two to three times as likely as men are to have relapsing-remitting MS.
  • Family History – If one of your parents or siblings has had MS, you are at higher risk of developing the disease.
  • Certain Infections – A variety of viruses have been linked to MS, including Epstein-Barr, the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis.
  • Race – White people, particularly those of Northern European descent, are at the highest risk of developing MS. People of Asian, African, or Native American descent have the lowest risk.
  • Climate – MS is far more common in countries with temperate climates, including Canada, the northern United States, New Zealand, southeastern Australia, and Europe.
  • Vitamin D – Having low levels of vitamin D and low exposure to sunlight is associated with a greater risk of MS.
  • Certain Autoimmune Diseases – You have a slightly higher risk of developing MS if you have other autoimmune disorders such as thyroid disease, pernicious anemia, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Smoking – Smokers who experience an initial event of symptoms that may signal MS are more likely than nonsmokers to develop a second event that confirms relapsing-remitting MS.

How is MS diagnosed?

At this time, there are no symptoms, physical findings, or laboratory tests that can, by themselves, determine if you have MS. Several strategies are used to determine if you meet the long-established criteria for a diagnosis of MS and rule out other possible causes of whatever symptoms you are experiencing. These strategies include a careful medical history, a neurologic exam, and various tests, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), spinal fluid analysis, and blood tests to rule out other conditions.

How is MS treated?

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. Establishing and following a treatment plan with your healthcare provider is the best strategy for managing your MS. Treatment typically focuses on speeding recovery from relapses – also called attacks or exacerbations, slowing the progression of the disease, and managing MS symptoms. Some people have such mild symptoms that no treatment is necessary.

How can a specialty pharmacy help?

Kroger Specialty Pharmacy's total life care programs set a clear path to caring, compassionate therapy management and support.

We are here to provide patients, providers, and partners with the necessary coordination of care vital to achieving successful treatment outcomes. Our team of patient care experts comprised of pharmacists, nurses, reimbursement specialists, and dedicated Patient Care Coordinators (PCCs) work together to offer our patients and partners with individualized care. During treatment, KSP offers ongoing patient evaluation and clinical support including frequent patient follow-up and continual education.

What are some support resources?

Please also refer to the manufacturer’s website for your prescribed medication(s).