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What is Multiple Sclerosis?

On the TV drama "The West Wing", President Bartlett finally revealed that he has had multiple sclerosis for several years; a progressive and sometimes disabling disease of the central nervous system.  Should he resign because of the cover-up?  Or, because of the disease itself?  The fact is, like President Bartlett or Montel Williams, most patients with the relapsing and remitting pattern of multiple sclerosis manage well.  This was confirmed by a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine [11/16/00].  These researchers  found that the average time from the onset of multiple sclerosis to the occurrence of a slight limitation in the ability to walk was less than 1 year among patients in whom the disease was progressive from the start.  But in patients who experienced the relapsing and remitting pattern of multiple sclerosis, the onset of significantly impaired walking took 11 years. 

Unfortunately, these researchers also found that once a threshold of irreversible disability had been reached, the progression of the disease was not effected by relapses.

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Created: 7/17/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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