More than Medicine
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that requires lifelong care with access to comprehensive treatment options from a team of experts that understands the far-reaching impact this chronic neurological disorder has on every aspect of your life.
Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center has the most well-rounded, experienced MS team in central Pennsylvania. We are well-versed in the most advanced treatments and medications available today. Our experts are active in groundbreaking research, which gives you access to the most promising care options from the leaders in MS care.
Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook
With MS, your immune system attacks your central nervous system, damaging the fatty substance (myelin) that covers nerves located in your brain and spinal cord. Myelin damage can slow or block your nerve signals and interfere with communication between your brain and other parts of your body. This causes a wide range of symptoms and physical disability, ranging from mild to quite severe.
There are four types of MS:
- Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS): involves one episode with symptoms that last at least 24 hours. Although characteristic of MS, it does not prompt a diagnosis of MS.
- Relapse-remitting MS (RRMS): causes alternating periods in which symptoms flare up periodically followed by periods in which they subside or disappear completely. The most common form of MS.
- Primary progressive MS: causes symptoms that worsen progressively without early relapse or remission. May include periods of stability.
- Secondary progressive MS (SPMS): starts with periods of remission and flare-ups but starts to progress steadily over time.
It is not possible to predict the path MS will take after your diagnosis. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include:
- Excessive fatigue
- Reduced motor skills, weakness and loss of muscle coordination
- Blurred vision
- Tingling, numbness and dizziness
- Heat sensitivity
- Loss of bladder control
- Loss of memory and problem-solving skills
- Mood imbalances and disturbances
- Spasticity or tremor
- Sexual dysfunction
MS can be difficult to diagnose. The disease has a wide range of symptoms, and many of them could be caused by any number of potential causes. Our team of specialists has the special training, expertise and experience to accurately evaluate your condition and determine if it meets the criteria for an MS diagnosis.
Diagnosis starts with a detailed review of your medical history and physical exam. Additional testing may include:
- MRI scans of your brain and spinal cord to identify any existing lesions
- Spinal fluid analysis to identify any existing infection
- Evoked potential test to measure electrical activity with stimulus
- Neurological exam to assess abilities like movement, coordination, speech, reflexes and balance
Although MS is a severe health condition requiring long-term care, most people with the disease will not experience severe disability. Bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction are common, but with good treatment up to 20% of people with MS experience relatively mild symptoms.
With treatment, most people with MS will live a normal lifespan. Many continue to work and remain active.
There is no cure for MS. Treatment is personalized according to your individual symptoms, health history and goals. We focus on strategies that relieve your symptoms, reduce the number and severity of your relapses and help maintain your quality of life.
Treatment options include:
- Medication: alleviates symptoms, slows or changes the progression of MS and reduces flare-ups. May be given in pill form, by injection or intravenously (IV).
- Rehabilitation: improves your ability to perform daily tasks and function independently. May include physical, occupational, speech or swallow therapy, depending on your condition and goals.
- Lifestyle changes: includes diet, exercise, stress reduction techniques and other strategies to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Experts in Care
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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has recognized Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center as a Center for Comprehensive MS Care, which means you can trust the care you receive is safe, effective and focused on your individual needs.
We know your diagnosis also affects the people who care about you. We work with your family and caregivers—linking them to available services and community resources—to help them understand and meet your condition and treatment needs.
As an academic medical center, we participate in an active research program, which provides access to promising new treatments through clinical trials.
Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.
Find the care your family needs, close to home, at one of our many locations throughout central Pennsylvania.Find a location near you