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Disease of the brain and spinal cord in which gradual, patchy destruction of the myelin sheath of nerve fibres causes interruption or disordered transmission of nerve impulses. Its early symptoms may include limb weakness or trembling, visual problems, sensory disturbances, unsteady walking, and defective bladder control, which come and go irregularly. Attacks grow more severe, and some symptoms become permanent, sometimes with eventual complete paralysis. Average survival from onset is about 25 years, but a rare acute form progresses over months. The cause remains uncertain and treatment unsatisfactory. Corticosteroids may ease symptoms. MS may be due to a delayed immune response that attacks the myelin sheaths; suggested causes include various common viruses. Dietary causes have also been suggested.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on multiple sclerosis , visit Britannica.com.