What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease in which your body’s own immune system attacks the central nervous system, damaging the myelin, which is the covering, or insulation, of certain nerves.

We do not know what causes MS, though we are aware that the disease tends to strike adults 18 to 40 years of age. It can affect any part of the central nervous system including the brain, spinal card, and the nerves leading to the eyes. It can cause a variety of disabilities, from mobility issues to cognitive deficits. Multiple sclerosis can take a heavy toll on those living with the disease and their loved ones. 

Fortunately, MS has become a highly manageable disease over the past 20 years. While there is no cure, there are new therapies available that can lessen the effects of MS and improve your quality of life.


Multiple sclerosis symptoms and their severity vary among individuals. Specific symptoms can last for days or weeks and then resolve. Over time, the symptoms of MS can become chronic.

Usually the first symptoms that appear are blurred or double vision, loss of color vision, or blindness in one eye. You may experience muscle weakness in your extremities, difficulty with coordination and balance, or a  "pins and needles" Sensation. You may have pain or loss of feeling. Heat may cause a temporary worsening of many symptoms.

Over time, MS can cause cognitive impairments such as difficulties with concentration, memory, and judgment. The disease generally does not affect your intellect and language ability, and these symptoms are typically mild.

Urinary Problems 
Urinary dysfunction or bladder problems are common with multiple sclerosis but they do not affect everyone with the disease. The symptoms vary from person to person and are generally manageable, so it’s important to discuss them with your doctor.  We work closely with our urologists to treat urinary symptoms promptly.

Vision Problems
Nearly half of people with MS experience some vision problem. Many MS-related eye problems are temporary. This Report any vision problems to your doctor immediately.

Intimacy, Fatigue, and Depression

MS can impact sexuality directly and indirectly. Men may suffer erectile dysfunction while women tend to experience pain, numbness, or decreased lubrication. The psychological factors of the disease may also decrease desire.

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It may be a primary symptom or it may be the result of other symptoms, such as weakness or pain. Fatigue is highly treatable. Keep a diary of your energy level and bring these notes to us so we can to help assess your treatment options.

Depression is one of the most treatable symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It can be a psychological response to the disease or a physiological aspect of it. It is important to talk to us about your feelings of sadness, grief or anxiety. Our social workers can provide emotional support, while our MS-trained psychiatrist can treat the psychiatric and emotional consequences of multiple sclerosis.

Research and Clinical Trials

Scientists and researchers have made considerable progress in understanding the nature of multiple sclerosis. While these are major advancements, they only provide partial benefit to people living with multiple sclerosis and can be complicated to administer.

Learn more about clinical trials taking place at Mount Sinai on our Clinical Trials website