- Multiple sclerosis, a disease of the brain and spinal cord, is the leading cause of nontraumatic disability among young adults. The average age at diagnosis is about 30.
- During the past 19 years the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved nine new medications for MS, and two more are up for review in the next few months.
- Although current medications keep early symptoms at bay, they do not stop the degeneration of neurons. Scientists are now formulating new theories about the cause of MS in hopes of developing drugs that can halt its progression or even prevent its onset.
Six years ago, when she was 24, Rachelle Alston woke up one morning and noticed she was having trouble seeing out of her left eye. “Everything was blurry from the bridge of my nose down,” recalls the slim Seattle native. “I thought my contacts must have scratched my eye or I had dry eyes, so I left my contacts out and went to work.”
She mentioned the problem to her co-workers. “I thought it was no big deal and I'd give it a few days, but they were older and pretty much pushed me out the door telling me I had to go see a doctor—now.” She saw an optometrist. He examined her and immediately referred her to a neuro-ophthalmologist, who sent her for an MRI of her brain. The scan revealed bright patches along nerves, a sign of the type of damage that characterizes multiple sclerosis.
This article was originally published with the title Solving the Mystery of MS.