8 Key Questions About Multiple Sclerosis
1. Is Multiple Sclerosis an Autoimmune Disease?
Most experts consider multiple sclerosis (MS) to be an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system is reacting to a normally occurring protein as if it were a foreign substance.
Because it’s still not known which protein, specifically, is being attacked in MS, some experts consider the disease to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”
Whatever the case, the abnormal immune response attacks the myelin — a fatty substance that insulates nerve cells — in the central nervous system, causing it to become inflamed. The inflammation damages the myelin as well as the nerve fibers the myelin surrounds, called axons.
Damage to the myelin and to underlying axons disrupts the transmission of electrical impulses between the brain and other parts of the body, leading to the symptoms that characterize multiple sclerosis.