What is MS?

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, progressive, neurological condition.

The body’s own immune system attacks the nerves in the central nervous system.1
The range of symptoms associated with MS are vast so that each person’s experience is unique. 2



Prevalence of MS in the UK5


MS prevalence in the UK is one of the highest in Europe.3

Most people with MS are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s. It is the most common condition of the central nervous system affecting young adults.4

Over 100,000 people in the UK have MS; one in every 600 people.5

  • Scotland has the highest rate with 209 people having MS per 100,0005
  • Northern Ireland has 175 per 100,0005
  • England has 164 per 100,0005
  • Wales has 138 per 100,0005

The current observation is that prevalence increases the further north
or south of the equator.6



Exactly how MS develops is still unknown.1

It is likely to be due to a mix of genes, something in our environment and some lifestyle factors. It is widely accepted that it is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks myelin, the protein that covers the central nervous system and helps messages travel quickly between the brain and the rest of the body.1

puzzle bits


Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS)

In relapsing remitting MS people have distinct attacks of symptoms which then fade away either partially or completely.

types graph

Primary Progressive MS (PPMS)

In PPMS symptoms gradually get worse over time, rather than appearing as sudden attacks (relapses).

types graph

Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS)

People originally diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS find that over time the frequency of relapses decreases but disability gradually increases this is called SPMS.

types graph
    1. 1. MS Trust - Causes of MS. Available at: Accessed December 2017.
    2. 2. MS Trust - Symptoms of MS. Available at: Accessed December 2017.
    3. 3.MS Society. UK one of worst countries in Western Europe to have MS warns MS Society, as it unveils world-first Register. Available at: Accessed December 2017.
    4. 4. MS Society. MS in the UK. Available at: Accessed December 2017.
    5. 5. MS Trust. Introduction to MS. Available at: Accessed December 2017.
    6. 6. MS International Federation. Atlas of MS. Available at: Accessed December 2017.
    7. 7. MS Trust. Types of MS. Available at: Accessed December 2017.
    8. 8. MS Society – Types of MS. Secondary Progressive. Available at: Accessed December 2017.

The missing pieces report

Download the "Missing Pieces" report which aims to identify the gaps or ‘missing pieces’ in knowledge, awareness, treatment pathways and care plans, which are preventing people with MS from accessing the right treatment. It has explored the attitudes of people with MS and their healthcare providers towards treatment in the UK and underlines the need to challenge our thinking around treatment goals and end-points.