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A simplified way to understand multiple sclerosis is through the following analogy. Electronic devices are powered through a wire that runs from the device to a power-source. These wires consist of thin copper strands that conduct the electrical current, covered by insulating material like plastic that prevents electrons from leaving the current. Nerves in our bodies are also made up of thin fibers that conduct electricity and are wrapped up in insulating material known as myelin (a fatty white substance) to keep electrons on the right path.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease, meaning that it damages myelin, which in turn impairs the brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body. In particular, MS tears away at the myelin that covers nerves in the brain, spinal cord, and eyes. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including vision loss, poor balance, mood swings, pain, muscle weakness, cramping, spasms, and paralysis.

MS is the world’s most common autoimmune neurological disease, as over 2.5 million people globally have some form of MS. The cause of the disease is not yet confirmed, but it is thought to be either genetic or environmental factors such as a virus that prevents myelin-producing cells from functioning properly. There is no known cure. Treatments for MS include physical therapy, steroids, and immunosuppressive drugs.