Merck Manuals Details Key Facts to Know About Multiple Sclerosis

RAHWAY, N.J., Feb. 7, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Multiple sclerosis (MS) may be a common disorder, but the journey to diagnosis and understanding of the illness may still lead to confusion for some patients.

In a new editorial from, Michael C. Levin, MD, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, breaks down what patients and their families should know about MS, in order to educate themselves and prepare for conversations with a doctor.

1. Several factors increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with MS

The cause of MS is unknown, but some studies point to early exposure to certain viruses in triggering the immune system to attack the body’s own tissue.

In fact, recent research looked at 955 active-duty military personnel diagnosed with MS and found the risk of MS increased 32-fold after infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, which is a type of herpes virus.

2. Signs and symptoms vary – and may go away on their own

MS can affect any part of the brain or spinal cord, and symptoms can vary significantly from person to person and from episode to episode. Early symptoms may include:

  • Tingling, numbness, pain, burning, and itching in the arms, legs, trunk, or face and sometimes a reduced sense of touch
  • Loss of strength or dexterity in a leg or hand, which may become stiff
  • Problems with vision

Symptoms may come on (known as relapses) and lessen (known as remission), seemingly without rhyme or reason.

3. Treatment can significantly reduce relapses

Individuals without a formal diagnosis may be tempted to ignore their illness, especially if symptoms have waned, says Levin. But he adds it’s crucial to work to uncover the cause of symptoms and discuss them with a healthcare professional.

Once MS is diagnosed, treatment can significantly extend periods of remission. On average, most individuals experience a relapse every one or two years. But with treatment, that can be extended to 10 or even 20 years between relapses, says Levin. Based on the condition and its symptoms, neurologists can guide patients toward the most effective treatments and medications.

You can read more about MS in this editorial on

About The Merck Manuals and MSD Manuals

First published in 1899 as a small reference book for physicians and pharmacists, The Merck Manual grew in size and scope to become one of the world’s most widely used comprehensive medical resources for professionals and consumers. As The Manual evolved, it continually expanded the reach and depth of its offerings to reflect the mission of providing the best medical information to a wide cross-section of users, including medical professionals and students, veterinarians and veterinary students, and consumers. In 2015, The Manuals kicked off Global Medical Knowledge 2020, a global initiative with the goal to make the best current medical information accessible by up to three billion professionals and patients around the world by 2020. The Manuals achieved that goal, and today its medical information is available in nearly 250 countries and in 14 languages. It’s continuing its ambitious mission through outreach, education and creating new reliable medical resources. For access to thousands of medical topics with images, videos and a constantly expanding set of resources, visit or and connect with us on social media: For Consumers in the U.S. and its territories: X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook. For Professionals in the U.S. and its territories: X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook

About Merck

At Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, we are unified around our purpose: We use the power of leading-edge science to save and improve lives around the world. For more than 130 years, we have brought hope to humanity through the development of important medicines and vaccines. We aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world – and today, we are at the forefront of research to deliver innovative health solutions that advance the prevention and treatment of diseases in people and animals. We foster a diverse and inclusive global workforce and operate responsibly every day to enable a safe, sustainable and healthy future for all people and communities. For more information, visit and connect with us on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

SOURCE The Merck Manuals

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