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Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system characterized by the destruction of the myelin sheath surrounding neurons in the brain.

This destruction slows down the transmission of signals along the nerves, which causes the symptoms associated with MS.

Multiple sclerosis: what you should know

  • The earliest MS symptom is often blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion, or blindness in one eye.
  • In addition to those above, early symptoms of MS include the following:
    • Unexplained fatigue (more likely to occur mid-afternoon) accompanied by increased muscle weakness, memory problems, sleepiness or drowsiness
    • Sensitivity to heat
    • Uncharacteristic clumsiness, such as dropping things, knocking things over or tripping
  • What causes MS is not known, but genetic predisposition and environmental factors both play some role.
  • Although there is no cure for MS, the majority of patients are mildly affected by the disease. In the worst cases, MS can render a person unable to write, speak or walk. 

Care for multiple sclerosis at Rush

Expert diagnosis: Because MS can be difficult to diagnose, the key to getting effective treatment is a clear diagnosis from experts in the field. If you have any of the above symptoms, talk to your primary care doctor who can recommend you have further testing with a neurologist who specializes in MS.

Neurologists at Rush may recommend some of the following to confirm an MS diagnosis:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Evoked potential test, which electronically measures how fast nerve impulses travel through the visual, auditory and other sensory systems
  • Examination of cerebrospinal fluid, which can reveal antibody and inflammatory changes that are characteristic in MS

Team approach: Because MS is complex and patients’ needs vary greatly, MS care at Rush involves a team approach to managing the disease who work with you and your family to provide individualized care. The MS center includes the following specialists:

Medications: Your doctors at Rush may prescribe medications that lesson the symptoms of MS, along with drugs that may help stabilize a patient’s condition and slow progression of the disease.

At-home therapy: Our staff work with patients and families to coordinate at-home therapy programs, when necessary and appropriate.

Why choose Rush for multiple sclerosis care

  • Rush is home to the largest MS center of its kind in the Midwest, serving more than 3,000 patients from around the country.
  • Rush is actively studying new MS treatment options; neurologists at Rush pioneered dalfampridine, a drug heralded as the first oral medication for MS and the first to help improve walking when it was introduced in 2010.
  • The Rush MS center offers the FDA-approved infusion drug Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) for the treatment of patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. 
  • The neurological sciences and neurological surgery programs at Rush are consistently ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report in its annual “Best Hospitals” issue.

Departments and programs that treat this condition