The effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) can be unpredictable. MS can cause symptoms that range from minor problems in mild cases to paralysis in the most severe cases.
People who have a mild form of MS or an early stage of a more progressive form of the condition often can work and enjoy life as they did before they were diagnosed. Others may need to rely on friends, family or caregivers for help with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping or household chores.
MS causes complications throughout the body because it affects how nerves communicate with one another. This can lead to fatigue, vision problems, mental changes, poor sexual function, pain and depression. Symptoms may be occasional or chronic. They also can vary in intensity.
About 85 percent of people with MS have the relapsing-remitting type. It's characterized by flare-ups followed by periods of remission. This means that you could go for a while without any problems and then have symptoms. Other types of MS worsen steadily and cause constant health problems.
Medications are available to treat symptoms of MS. And, physical therapy can help maintain day-to-day mobility in some cases. There also are approaches to modify the disease with medicines such as interferon-beta, glatiramer acetate and mitoxantrone.
Doctors also continue to work on improved therapies -- more than a dozen clinical trials are under way to test new treatments -- giving new hope to people who have MS.