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Multiple Sclerosis


Multiple sclerosis (MS)

is a disease that leads to inflammation and damage to parts of your central nervous system (CNS). The CNS includes your brain, spinal cord, and nerves. MS causes your immune system to attack and destroy the coating (myelin) that covers your nerves. This may cause problems with how you feel, move, and see.

Signs and symptoms of MS

depend on where the damage is in the CNS. They may vary from person to person and from time to time in the same person. The most common signs and symptoms of MS include the following:

  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness even with plenty of rest)
  • Difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels
  • Blurred or double vision or dizziness
  • Depression, mood swings, or difficulty controlling emotions
  • Muscle weakness, cramps, or spasms
  • Numbness or tingling, usually in the arms and legs
  • Problems with sexual function, such as difficulty having or maintaining an erection

Call or have someone call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You fall and hit your head.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You feel you cannot cope with MS.
  • Your abdomen is painful and larger than usual.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have an open sore.
  • You have burning when you urinate.
  • You do not have a bowel movement for 3 days or more.
  • You choke or cough during eating or drinking.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


may include rehabilitation and alternative therapies. Steroid medicines may be needed during a relapse. You may need any of the following:

  • Disease-modifying medicine helps prevent MS from getting worse. The medicine may also help prevent attacks or relapses.
  • Other medicines may be used to control and decrease MS symptoms. Medicines can be used to treat symptoms such as muscle spasms, depression, or pain. There are also medicines to help treat sexual dysfunction, fatigue, and bladder or bowel problems.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Manage your stress to decrease relapses. Do activities that help you relax. Ask your healthcare provider about counseling or therapies to help you manage stress.
  • Exercise may help decrease fatigue and depression. It may also improve bowel or bladder function, mobility, and stiffness. Ask your healthcare provider about an exercise program that is right for you.
  • Get vaccines to prevent illnesses that worsen MS symptoms. Get a yearly flu vaccine as soon as your healthcare provider recommends each year. Talk to your provider about other vaccines you need, and when to get them. If you are taking certain medicines, your provider will help you schedule vaccines. You may need to get some vaccines 4 to 6 weeks before or 2 to 6 months after treatment. Talk to your provider about any other concerns or questions you have about vaccines. Examples include if vaccines will affect your MS symptoms or interact with your treatment.
  • Take your medicines as directed. This will help prevent complications of MS and may reduce your number of relapses. Know the side effects of your medicines and when to report them to your healthcare provider.


  • Take warm but not hot showers or baths. Water that is too hot may make your symptoms worse.
  • Put grab bars on the walls beside toilets and inside showers and bathtubs. These will help you get up after you use the toilet or bathe. Grab bars will also help to keep you from falling in the shower. You may want to put a shower chair inside the shower.

Bladder care:

  • Try to urinate every 3 hours during the day. Avoid drinking liquids before you go to bed. Urinate before you go to bed.
  • You may need to learn how to use a catheter if you cannot urinate on your own. A catheter is a soft rubber tube that you put into your urethra to drain urine. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on catheters.

Skin care:

You may have numb areas on your body. Check these areas often to be sure your skin is healthy. This will help prevent pressure sores. Keep your skin clean and dry to help prevent infections. Check your skin often if you use heat or ice so you do not damage the skin.

Rehabilitation programs for MS:

  • Physical therapy helps you manage MS symptoms. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
  • Speech therapy helps improve speech and swallowing. A speech therapist has special training to help people learn safer ways to swallow. He or she will also help you learn which foods and liquids are safe to eat and drink.
  • Occupational therapy may help you with self-care activities. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities. These skills may include bathing, dressing, feeding, grooming, or using the bathroom. An occupational therapist may also help you find equipment for your home or work. This equipment may make activities safer or easier for you to complete.

For more information:

  • Multiple Sclerosis Association of America
    706 Haddonfield Road
    Cherry Hill , NJ 08002
    Phone: 1- 856 - 488-4500
    Phone: 1- 800 - 532-7667
    Web Address:
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society
    733 Third Avenue
    New York , NY 10017
    Phone: 1- 800 - 344-4867
    Web Address:

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

You will need to have regular visits to help manage your symptoms. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Multiple Sclerosis (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference Guides (External)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.