Skip to Main Content


Characterized by inflammation, selective destruction of CNS myelin, and neurodegeneration; peripheral nervous system is spared. Pathologically, the multifocal scarred lesions of multiple sclerosis (MS) are termed plaques. Etiology is autoimmune, with susceptibility determined by genetic and environmental factors. MS affects >900,000 in the United States and 3 million worldwide; onset is often in early to middle adulthood, and women are affected three times as often as men.


Onset may be abrupt or insidious. Some pts have symptoms that are so trivial that they may not seek medical attention for months or years. Recurrent attacks of focal neurologic dysfunction lasting weeks or months and followed by variable recovery are typical; some pts initially present with slowly progressive deterioration. Symptoms often transiently worsen with fatigue, stress, exercise, or heat. Manifestations include weakness and/or sensory symptoms, visual difficulties, abnormalities of gait and coordination, urinary urgency or frequency, and fatigue. Motor involvement can present as a heavy, stiff, weak, or clumsy limb. Localized tingling, “pins and needles,” and “dead” sensations are common. Optic neuritis produces monocular blurring of vision, especially in the central visual field, often with associated retro-orbital pain accentuated by eye movement. Involvement of the brainstem may result in diplopia, nystagmus, vertigo, or facial pain, numbness, weakness, hemispasm, or myokymia (rippling muscular contractions). Ataxia, tremor, and dysarthria may reflect disease of cerebellar pathways. Lhermitte’s symptom, a momentary electric shock–like sensation evoked by neck flexion, indicates disease in the cervical spinal cord. Diagnostic criteria are listed in Table 192-1; MS mimics are summarized in Table 192-2.

TABLE 192-1Diagnostic Criteria for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.