Multiple Sclerosis FAQs

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How common is MS?

Multiple sclerosis is believed to affect more than 2 million people worldwide, and the risk of getting MS is about 1 in 1000 for the general population.1,2

Can MS be cured?

There is currently no cure for MS, but today’s treatments can do more than just treat MS symptoms - they can reduce the number of relapses and also slow down the course of the disease.1

What are the most common symptoms of MS?

MS affects everyone differently, and symptoms can appear and disappear over time.  Some of the most common symptoms are: numbness, balance problems, slurred speech, bladder problems, bowel problems, cognitive difficulties, depression, fatigue, blurred vision, and dizziness. 1,3

What is a relapse?

Also known as a “flare-up” or “attack”, a relapse is when a person’s symptoms get worse, or when new symptoms appear.  Although relapses are temporary, they sometimes leave behind new symptoms or disability that are permanent.4

Can people with MS play sports?

Many people with MS continue their involvement with physical activities and sports after their diagnosis. Over time, the effects of MS can slow a person down and affect coordination, but as long as one knows their limits, a person with MS can benefit from physical activity just like everyone else!5 One special consideration for people with MS is that sun and heat exposure can make their MS symptoms worse. This effect is temporary and reversible, but it is always a good idea to mind the sun and stay cool.6

Can people with MS have children?

Yes, many women with MS start families. However, it is important to talk to your doctor, because some medications should not be taken if you are, or are planning to become pregnant7

Can people with MS donate blood?

As long as the person is in good heath otherwise, there are no special restrictions on blood donation by people with MS. Check with your local blood donation organization if you would like to donate blood.

Is MS contagious?

No, MS cannot be transmitted from one person to another. Instead, it is caused by a combination of a person’s genes and certain factors in the environment.1,9

What is optic neuritis?

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of one of the nerves in your eye. It is often painful and can cause blurry vision, or a loss of vision in the affected eye. It is often the first symptom that a person with MS experiences. Usually vision returns to normal on its own after 8-10 weeks.9

1. FAQs about MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society Web site. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/faqs-about-ms/index.aspx. Accessed on 16 February 2011.
2. Courtney AM, Treadaway K, Remington G, Frohman E. Multiple sclerosis. Med Clin North Am. 2009;93:451-476.
3. Symptoms. National Multiple Sclerosis Society Web site. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/symptoms/index.aspx. Accessed on 16 February 2011.
4. Exacerbations. National Multiple Sclerosis Society Web site. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/treatments/exacerbations/index.aspx. Accessed on 16 February 2011.
5. Healthy Living. International MS Federation Web site. http://www.msif.org/en/life_with_ms/healthy_living/index.html. Accessed on 16 February 2011.
6. Symptoms. International MS Federation Web site. http://www.msif.org/en/about_ms/symptoms.html. Accessed on 16 February 2011.
7. Pregnancy and Reproductive Issues. National Multiple Sclerosis Society Web site. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/healthy-living/pregnancy/index.aspx. Accessed on 16 February 2011.
8. Eligibility Criteria by Alphabetical Listing. American Red Cross Web site. http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-alphabetical-listing. Accessed on 16 February 2011.
9. Optic Neuritis. National Multiple Sclerosis Society Web site. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/symptoms/visualsymptoms/optic-neuritis/index.aspx. Accessed on 16 February 2011.