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reviewed 9/10/2018

Multiple sclerosis: True or false?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) causes the immune system to attack the central nervous system, affecting normal brain and spinal cord function. There are many enduring mysteries about the disease, and misinformation about MS is widespread. Can you separate the facts from the falsehoods?

True or false:

Multiple sclerosis rarely develops in children.

True. MS usually develops in adults between the ages of 20 and 40. Children and older adults do sometimes contract MS, but younger adults are far more prone to this disease. Women are more likely to contract MS than men are, and it's more common in Caucasians than in other ethnic groups.

True or false: Certain diets are better for those who have MS than others.

False. There's no evidence that any special diets are better or worse for controlling MS. Even so, it's important that those with MS enjoy a healthy diet and regular exercise. These lifestyle changes can help reduce the symptoms of MS.

True or false: Multiple sclerosis is a genetic disorder.

False. MS is actually a neurological disease. While genes may be a factor, the root causes of MS are not well understood. The symptoms of an MS attack include vision problems, dizziness, loss of balance, numbness, weakness and loss of bladder control. Symptoms can be managed with medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes, but there's currently no known cure.

True or false: Owning household pets increases your risk for contracting MS.

False. The virus that causes canine distemper in dogs was once thought to increase the risk of MS in people, but that idea has been widely disproven. If you have MS, or you worry you are at risk of contracting it, you do not need to avoid pet ownership.

True or false: Multiple sclerosis doesn't always look the same—it takes different forms.

True. People who have MS don't fit a single mold. While most people with MS have a normal life expectancy, some forms of the disease can be severely disabling. And while many people are able to effectively manage their MS symptoms, some versions of the disease steadily worsen over time.

Learn more about living with MS and find out how to effectively manage the symptoms—or support a loved one who has it.

Visit the MS topic center

Sources: American Academy of Neurology; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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