What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis diagram

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system, launching an attack on its own tissue.

Multiple sclerosis can range from relatively benign to somewhat disabling to devastating, as communication between the brain and other body parts is disrupted.

Multiple sclerosis affects balance, coordination, strength, and other body functions to varying degrees based on severity and form.

What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Early multiple sclerosis symptoms include weakness, tingling, numbness, fatigue, poor balance, vertigo, and blurred vision. Symptoms often start between ages 20 and 40.

As multiple sclerosis progresses, most people with MS have attacks, also called relapses, when the condition worsens.

They’re usually followed by times of recovery when symptoms improve.

How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?

Based on symptoms, tests for multiple sclerosis are as follows:

  • Blood tests to look for other problems with MS-like symptoms, like Lyme disease.
  • A test to measure the speed of signals traveling along one’s nerves.
  • An MRI creates brain images so a doctor can check for areas of damage.
  • A spinal tap to check the fluid that flows in the brain and spinal cord; may show signs that the immune system is harming the nervous system, which is what happens in MS.

Multiple sclerosis diagram

What causes multiple sclerosis?

The causes of multiple sclerosis remain unknown. The disease is especially common in Scotland, Scandinavia, and northern Europe.

In the U.S., the prevalence of MS is higher in whites than in other racial groups.

Multiple sclerosis may, in part, be inherited (genetics contribute to the increased risk among family members).

Siblings of an affected person have a 2% to 5% risk of developing MS.

Some scientists theorize that MS develops because a person is born with a genetic predisposition to react to some environmental agent, which, upon exposure, triggers an autoimmune response.

What are the types of multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is categorized into several types based on the patterns of disease progression and symptoms.

The main types of multiple sclerosis include:

Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS):

This is the most common form of MS, characterized by periodic relapses or flare-ups of symptoms followed by periods of partial or complete recovery (remissions). During remissions, there is no disease progression, but new relapses may occur.

Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS):

Approximately 10-15% of people with MS have PPMS. It involves a gradual and steady worsening of neurological function from the onset, without distinct relapses or remissions. Symptoms progressively worsen over time, leading to increased disability.

Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS):

SPMS follows an initial phase of relapsing-remitting MS. After a variable period, individuals with RRMS may transition to SPMS. In this stage, there is a gradual worsening of symptoms and disability, with or without occasional relapses and minor remissions.

Progressive-Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis (PRMS):

PRMS is a relatively rare form of MS. It is characterized by a steadily worsening disease course from the beginning, with occasional relapses and periods of partial remission. Unlike RRMS, the remissions in PRMS are usually incomplete, and disability accumulates over time.

It’s important to note that while these types provide a general framework, the progression and symptoms of MS can vary widely between individuals. A healthcare professional specializing in neurology is best suited to diagnose and determine the specific type of MS based on an individual’s symptoms, medical history, and diagnostic tests.

Women in Powerchair with dog

Treatment for multiple sclerosis

Disease-modifying therapies are used to treat “relapsing forms” of multiple sclerosis, which include RRMS, as well as progressive forms in those individuals who continue to experience relapses.

At present, there are no therapies that have been approved to treat PPMS without relapses.

Scientists worldwide are working to find effective treatments for progressive forms of multiple sclerosis.

The prognosis for multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is seldom fatal, and life expectancy is shortened by only a few months.

Concerns about prognosis centre primarily on the quality of life and prospects for disability.

After 15 years, fewer than 20% of those with multiple sclerosis are fully debilitated; another 20% may require a wheelchair or use crutches or a cane to ambulate, but 60% are ambulatory without assistance, and some will have little effect at all.

As many as one-third of all patients with multiple sclerosis go through life without any persistent disability and suffer only intermittent, transient episodes of symptoms.

Mobility for those with multiple sclerosis

Approximately 30% of those with multiple sclerosis require a wheelchair, often a powerchair, due to limited strength and fatigue.

Quantum Rehab, the global leader in individualized powerchair solutions, emphasizes mobility technologies specific to those living with multiple sclerosis.

Quantum powerchairs incorporate power-adjustable seating for user repositioning and comfort; speciality drive controls, including using a single finger or one’s head to operate the powerchair; and a highly-adaptable design to meet an individual’s current and future needs.

Quantum powerchairs feature the latest advanced technologies to increase the independence of those with multiple sclerosis.

iLevel seat elevation technology allows users to operate the powerchair seated or standing.

Bluetooth is also integrated into Quantum’s Q-Logic 3 electronics, so those with multiple sclerosis can operate much of their environment with the powerchair drive control itself.

Quantum powerchairs are designed to give those living with multiple sclerosis optimal medical comfort and maximum independence.

ICON Rehab Powerchair UK
ICON Rehab Powerchair

Quantum Q6 Edge 2 Powerchair profile
Quantum Q6 Edge 2 Powerchair

Mobility and assistive technology needs

Depending on the progression and type of multiple sclerosis, mobility needs can include canes and crutches, leg braces, walkers, manual wheelchairs and scooters.

There is a portion of people living with MS who rely on the assistance of a power mobility device to assist them with the performance of mobility-related activities of daily living (MRADLs).

These individuals may be able to push a manual wheelchair for part of the day but, due to fatigue, also rely on a powered mobility product.

If a person with MS requires a power wheelchair, it is typically advised to provide a power base that can easily be adapted to meet the individual’s changing seating and electronics needs due to the progressive nature of MS.

It is often advised to start the individual with proportional control (joystick) because this provides the most direct control for driving a power base.

As the disease progresses and the individual experiences more frequent fatigue, muscle weakness or other conditions affecting the ability to function, speciality controls may be required for the individual to continue performing MRADLs.

Optional LED fender lights on the Q6 Edge 2 help clients see and be seen.

If the individual has decreased ability to shift weight independently or has developed altered sensation, the individual may require the benefits of a power positioning system.

Options include tilt and recline systems, power seat elevation with iLevel and a power articulating foot platform.


When your client has progressed beyond the use of a manual wheelchair and power mobility is appropriate, a power base with the capability to accept full seating and positioning options and various drive controls.

The Edge 3 is compatible with various full seating and positioning components.

Optional 4.5 mph iLevel power-adjustable seat height lifts clients to 12”, promoting greater independence and social interaction at eye level.

The Q6 Edge 2 also accepts a wide selection of seating and positioning options and possesses a proven track record of quality, reliability and customer satisfaction.

Both powerchairs can accept expandable electronics to meet your client’s changing needs.

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