Types of MS

Animation showing dissemination of brain lesions in time and space as demonstrated by monthly MRI studies along a year

Doctors divide the symptoms into three groups: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Primary symptoms come from damage to the protective sheath around the nerves in your spine or brain. The damage is called demyelination. It causes scarring, which makes it harder for signals to travel between the brain and the body.

This process can lead to bladder or bowel problems, loss of balance, numbness, paralysis, tingling, tremors, vision problems, or weakness. Medicine, rehabilitation, and other treatments can keep many of these problems under control.

Secondary symptoms follow the main problems of MS. For instance, not being able to empty your bladder can lead to a bladder infection. Doctors can treat secondary symptoms, but the goal is to avoid them by treating the primary symptoms.

Tertiary symptoms are the social, psychological, and job-related problems of coping with MS. For instance, if MS makes it hard for you to walk or drive, you may not be able to do your job well.

Because MS varies so much, it’s best not to compare yourself with other people who have MS. Your experience is likely to be different. Most people learn to manage their symptoms and can keep leading full, active lives.

© 2013 WebMD, LLC.

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