Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world, with an estimated 90,000 Canadians living with the disease. On average, 12 Canadians are diagnosed with MS everyday. Most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20 and 49 and the unpredictable effects of the disease will last for the rest of their lives.
MS is a chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. Since that includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve, MS can affect vision, memory, balance and mobility. It is considered an episodic disability meaning that the severity and duration of illness and disability can vary and are often followed by periods of wellness. It can also be progressive.
The disease attacks myelin, the protective covering of the nerves, causing inflammation and often damaging the myelin. Myelin is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses through nerve fibres. If damage to myelin is slight, nerve impulses travel with minor interruptions; however, if damage is substantial and if scar tissue replaces the myelin, nerve impulses may be completely disrupted, and the nerve fibres themselves can be damaged.
MS is unpredictable and may cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, impaired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes. Its effects can be physical, emotional and financial. Currently there is no cure, but each day researchers are learning more about what causes MS and are zeroing in on ways to prevent it.
We are here to help. No one needs to face MS alone. In communities across Canada, the MS Society provides information, support, educational events and other resources for people living with MS and their families. Learn more about the programs and services we offer.
Researchers funded by the MS Society are working to find the cause of MS, develop better treatments with less side effects, and ultimately cure the disease for everyone who is affected by it. Learn more about the research we fund.