What is MS

The disease MS

The goal of Mission Summit is a world without MS. That is what we are fighting for. Multiple sclerosis is still an incurable disease, which has a huge impact on patients. For many people, MS is a relatively unknown disease. For example, many people think that it is a muscle disease, but that is not the case. It is in fact a disease of the central nervous system. You can read on the following pages what MS is exactly, what it means to have MS and what treatments there are now available. Finally, we’ll look at what it takes to cure MS.

With this information we want to show what MS is and why it is so important to beat this serious disease. MS patient Niels van Buren is shifting his limits to achieve this goal. Will you help us?

The information on the following pages is based on the following sources [in Dutch]:

What is MS?

It is a misconception that MS is a muscle disease. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system (brains and spinal cord). Around the nerves to and from the central nervous system is a protective layer called "myelin", which ensures that messages from the brain are quickly transported through the nerves. In a person with MS inflammation and eventually scarring of this protective layer occur. The hardening which is caused by the scarring is called sclerosis. Because of the scarring commands from the central nervous system are not properly received by the muscles or organs. This can lead to different symptoms, such as loss of function, loss of strength, blindness, extreme fatigue or memory problems. The symptoms of MS vary depending on the place in the brains where the damage occurs. Therefore, the symptoms of MS are very diverse and can vary tremendously per patient.

Neurologist prof. dr. Bernard Uitdehaag explains what the disease MS means.
Prof. dr. Bernard Uitdehaag is director of the VU MS Center and ambassador for Mission Summit.

What are the causes of multiple sclerosis?

The precise cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown. MS is probably an autoimmune disease. That means it is related to a malfunction of the immune system. This means that the defense system of the body functions too well against viruses, bacteria and infections, causing healthy tissue - such as myelin – being broken down in the body.
It is also known that environmental and genetic factors increase the chance of getting MS, but it is not yet exactly known how these factors play a role. MS is not inherited, but there are certain genes (pieces of the DNA) that cause an increased risk of the disease. For environmental factors that increase the likelihood of MS, should be thought of diet, smoking and vitamin D deficiency.

MS in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, approximately 17,000 (1 in 1,000) people have MS, worldwide there are more than 2.5 million. The disease is twice as common in women as in men. Each year the number of new patients is 3.5 per 100,000. The disease has a major social impact on people, as the disease is chronic, and people with MS need medication for the rest of their lives. 

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