Understanding multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is usually thought of as a single disease, but its course and symptoms vary from person to person.

Who gets MS?

Multiple sclerosis is a leading cause of non-traumatic disability for young people.1,2

MS is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 403

MS is twice as likely in women than men2

2.3 million or 1 in 3,0002
people in the world have MS

MS prevalence is highest in countries furthest from the equator4

Approximately 1 in 710 people in North America have MS2

Approximately 1 in 925 people in Europe have MS2

Approximately 1 in 1050 people in Australia have MS2

Symptoms can affect nearly every part of the body and the mind

People with MS can experience many types of symptoms.5

90%Up to 90% of people with MS experience fatigue6

50%Within 15 years of onset, more than 50% of people with MS have difficulty walking5,7,8

20%Vision difficulties are common, and a first symptom in 15-20% of people with MS9

80%At least 80% of people with MS experience bladder issues10

2xDepression is approximately 2x more likely in people with MS11

2xSleep problems are twice as likely in people with MS12

MS has different disease courses

MS is categorised into courses based on how the disease generally behaves and whether or not there is disease activity and a steady increase in disability over time.

For explanation of disease courses, please visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.13


Relapsing-remitting MS


Secondary progressive MS


Primary progressive MS

Disease activity can be measured

No matter what course of MS a person has, relapsing or progressive forms of MS may be active or inactive at different points in time.14 Disease activity may be outwardly apparent with new or worsening signs or symptoms. There can also be underlying disease activity that is detected with special equipment like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

  • Relapse


    A relapse, or exacerbation of MS (also known as an attack or flare-up), causes new symptoms or the worsening of old symptoms.15 The attack must last at least 24 hours and be separated from the previous attack by at least one month. Most relapses last from a few days to several weeks or even months, and can be followed by an incomplete or full recovery.

  • Disability progression

    Disability Progression

    How fast or slow disability worsens may vary, but progression is a sustained increase in disability over time.

  • MRI activity

    MRI Activity

    Lesions are inflamed or damaged areas of the CNS that can be seen with MRI. Lesions may appear or grow larger without immediately noticeable consequences, but can be a sign of irreversible damage and may lead to disability progression.16

More is being done

There is no cure for MS, but research continues to better understand and treat the disease.5

What causes MS?
What new ways can disease activity be monitored?
How can we better study new medicines for MS?
How can we predict which patients will benefit from a certain treatment?