Your browser does not support javascript:   Search for gard hereSearch for news-and-events here.


Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Multiple sclerosis


* Not a rare disease
Información en español

Other Names for this Disease
  • MS
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system, specifically the brain and the spinal cord. The disorder is characterized by destruction of the myelin, the fatty tissue that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers and promotes the transmission of nerve impulses, and damage to nerve cells. The symptoms vary widely from person to person, and may include sensory disturbances in the limbs, problems with muscle control, tremors, muscle stiffness (spasticity), exaggerated reflexes (hyperreflexia), weakness, difficulty walking, poor bladder control, and vision problems. Most patients have periods during which they have symptoms (clinical attacks). The clinical attacks are typically followed by periods without any symptoms (remission). After several years, the symptoms worsen continuously. Multiple sclerosis is considered an autoimmune disorder but the exact cause is unknown. Risk factors for developing multiple sclerosis include genetic factors like changes in the HLA-DRB1 gene and in the IL7R gene and environmental factors, such as exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus, low levels of vitamin D, and smoking. The goal of treatment of MS is to decrease attacks and the inflammation within the central nervous system.[1][2][3]
Last updated: 11/21/2015


  1. What is Multiple Sclerosis?. National MS Society Web site. Accessed 11/20/2015.
  2. Stüve O, Oksenberg J. Multiple Sclerosis Overview. GeneReviews. May 11, 2010; Accessed 11/20/2015.
  3. Multiple Sclerosis. Genetics Home Reference. April 2013;
GARD Video Tutorials
GARD Video Tutorials
Learn how to find information on treatment, research, specialists, and more.
Your Questions Answered
Your Questions Answered
View questions about this condition answered by GARD Information Specialists. You can also submit a new question.

Basic Information

  • Genetics Home Reference contains information on Multiple sclerosis. This website is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.
  • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
  • The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library provides information on this condition for patients and caregivers. 
  • The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) collects and disseminates research information related to neurological disorders. Click on the link to view information on this topic.
  • The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) has a report for patients and families about this condition. NORD is a patient advocacy organization for individuals with rare diseases and the organizations that serve them.

In Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Multiple sclerosis. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.

Press Releases

  • On August 13, 2007, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) posted an article titled Genes Linked to Multiple Sclerosis, which discusses 2 genes that influence the risk of developing multiple sclerosis.  Click on the name of the article to read more.
Other Names for this Disease
  • MS
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.