Jump to content
Carers Trust Logo - site opens in a new window



What is MS? "It's all Greek to me!"

MS Society logo

Multiple Sclerosis is a condition that affects someone’s central nervous system. Sclerosis comes from the Greek word meaning ‘scars’.

Our bodies work by having lots of chains of neurons - the nerves which carry messages from our brains to parts of our body. Our brains and bodies usually work together to help us do things - an example of this would be our brains telling our feet that they need to step forward in order to be able to walk.

To protect these neurons and help them work better, they are covered in a substance called myelin. When someone has MS, their immune system (which normally stops us from getting ill) gets over-enthusiastic and attacks the myelin, causing scars on it.

This scarring means that messages being carried round the body don’t always get through to where they need to go, so the brain and the parts of the body tend not to work as well together. Because the neurons send messages to all different parts of the body, MS can affect different people in different ways.

Marissa’s Story
"Hello my name is Marissa, And i am 11 years old and i am a young carer because my mum has MS and i have to look after her all the time"

The body protects neurones by covering them in something called myelin, which is a bit like the cladding around electrical wiring. And that’s where problems can arise for people who develop MS.

When someone has MS their immune system, which usually protects them from illness, becomes over enthusiastic and starts attacking the myelin cladding that protects our neurones. The myelin becomes ‘scarred’.

If the myelin is damaged, it becomes more difficult for messages to travel from one neurone to the next. Sometimes the messages become confused or get lost.

“Sclerosis” comes from the Greek word for scars. We say ‘multiple’ because there can be lots of bits of scarring in neurones around the brain and the spinal cord. As each chain of neurones sends messages to different parts of us, scarring in each area will affect us in different ways, so it’s hard to guess how MS will show up in different people.