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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Multiple Sclerosis

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurological disease that affects the central nervous system, in particular the brain and spinal cord. The causes of MS are not well understood, but it is generally believed to involve an autoimmune process. In autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks itself, targeting the cells, tissues, and organs of a person’s own body.

The severity, progression, and symptoms of MS can vary widely from person to person. Common symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, balance problems, spasticity, numbness, bladder and bowel problems, vision loss, tremors, and depression. Treatment is available to relieve symptoms, and, for some types of MS, to slow disease progression. Over the past decade, research has shown that early and active management of MS can improve a patient’s outcome and quality of life.

Internet Resources

MedlinePlus: Multiple Sclerosis
Developed at the National Library of Medicine specifically for consumers, this site is a portal for both government-sponsored and privately developed health information.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society
This Web site provides education and resources for individuals living with MS, including those recently diagnosed with the disease.

Multiple Sclerosis Foundation
This site includes facts, an interactive forum, and multimedia presentations for MS patients and their families.

Multiple Sclerosis Association of America
The mission of this organization is to ease the day-to-day challenges of individuals with multiple sclerosis and their caregivers.


  • Multiple sclerosis. Calabresi PA and Newsome SD. In: Neurology for the non-neurologist, 6th ed. Weiner WJ et al., eds. 2010.
  • The stress and mood management program for individuals with multiple sclerosis: therapist guide. Mohr DC. 2010.
  • Fighting fatigue in multiple sclerosis: practical ways to create new habits and increase your energy. Lowenstein N. 2009.
  • Living with progressive multiple sclerosis: overcoming the challenges. Coyle P. 2008.
  • Multiple sclerosis: new hope and practical advice for people with MS and their families. Rosner L. 2008.
  • Multiple sclerosis: the questions you have-- the answers you need, 4th ed. Kalb RC, ed. 2008.
  • Complementary and alternative medicine and multiple sclerosis. Bowling AC. 2007.
  • Managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Schapiro RT. 2007.
  • MS and your feelings: handling the ups and downs of multiple sclerosis. Shadday A. 2007.
  • Multiple sclerosis: a guide for the newly diagnosed. Holland NJ. 2007.
  • The comfort of home: an illustrated step-by-step guide for multiple sclerosis caregivers. Meyer MM and Derr P. 2006.

All references below are available in print at the Health Learning Center or electronically at http://www.nmh.org/nm/health+library+virtual+library.

  • Gale encyclopedia of neurological disorders. Chamberlin S, ed. 2005.


The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America provides an on-demand video library with 28 MS-related programs including symptoms, research, family and lifestyle challenges, and disability and legal issues: http://www.msassociation.org/programs/videos/


The Health Learning Center has several models of the nervous and skeletal systems and one of an actual nerve cell. Check with a staff person or volunteer for assistance.


  • MR imaging of multiple sclerosis. Radiology. Filippi M and Rocca MA. 259(3):659-81. 2011 June.
  • Combination Therapy in Multiple Sclerosis. Conway D. Lancet Neurology. 9(3):299-308. 2010 March.
  • Multiple sclerosis: geoepidemiology, genetics, and the environment. Milo R. Autoimmunity Reviews. 9(5):A387-94. 2010 March.
  • Multiple sclerosis: treatment options, advances offer new hope. Mayo Clinic Women’s Healthsource. 14(6):1–2. June 2010.


Several organizations connect MS patients and their families to support services:

Multiple Sclerosis Foundation:

National Multiple Sclerosis Society:

Multiple Sclerosis Association of America:

Contact Us

For more information, please contact the Health Learning Center at 312-926-5465 or HLC@nmh.org.

Last UpdateDecember 2, 2011