See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 24, Issue 2

New Treatments Tackle Multiple Sclerosis

New medicines for multiple sclerosis have made a big difference in patients' lives, but a breakthrough in therapy may require rethinking the origins of the disease

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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.

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