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Multiple Sclerosis & Autoimmune Disorders

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the brain and spinal cord that affects your entire central nervous system. It is an autoimmune disorder that causes your white blood cells to attack the protective matter (sheath) that covers and protects your nerves.

This covering, called myelin, is a fatty substance that acts like the insulation around a wire. It enables electrical signals to travel smoothly along your nerves and into various parts of your body. When the insulation is lost, your nerves short circuit and do not work as well as they should. This can cause pain, weakness, poor coordination of limbs and walking, loss of sensation, vision trouble, tingling in your fingers and toes and bowel and bladder problems.

You may experience a single attack that never comes back. A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is made when your body endures multiple episodes at different points in time. You might have two separate attacks in different parts of your brain or spinal cord. Initial attacks are sometimes given their own autoimmune disorder label, such as optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve) or transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord).

Other autoimmune disorders that can be similar to multiple sclerosis include:

  • Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM). This is a condition where your body attacks its own brain cells. The event happens all at once and can be more devastating than a single episode.
  • Neuromyelitis optica. The immune system attacks the optic nerve and spinal cord and no other part of the central nervous system.
  • Myasthenia gravis. This autoimmune disorder impacts your voluntary muscles including your limbs, eyes and throat.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome. The body attacks your peripheral nervous system, affecting your muscle movements.

Multiple sclerosis usually is diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, but can start at any age. Symptoms generally begin with distinct episodes or attacks that often go into remission only to return later. This is called relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. In some people, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis continue to get worse from the start. This condition is called primary progressive multiple sclerosis. As your nerves are exposed without their protective covering, they stop working over time. This can lead to serious damage to your central nervous system.

At Indiana University Health, our neurologists use a comprehensive care model to help you manage your multiple sclerosis or autoimmune condition. Our neurologists partner with experts in many other areas, including physical therapy, behavioral health, urology, eye care and pain management to find the best treatments to manage your symptoms and to help slow the disease’s progress and keep you healthy.

Through our affiliation with the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Neurology, the neuroimmunology/multiple sclerosis program earned designation as a Partner in MS Care–Center for Comprehensive and Coordinated Care from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This recognizes our demonstrated excellence in care, participation in research and clinical trials and the availability of specially trained clinical nurses to assist patients in coordinating their care.

Children with autoimmune disorders receive pediatric neurological care from our experts at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. Our pediatric rehabilitation services include a focus on spasticity management, which is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis and some autoimmune conditions.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Multiple Sclerosis & Autoimmune Disorders Treatment Information

Treatments for multiple sclerosis and autoimmune disorders involve medicines to slow disease progression or prevent attacks and therapies that help you manage and control symptoms.

We also advance care through clinical and research studies:

Multiple Sclerosis & Autoimmune Disorders Locations & Physicians

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Multiple Sclerosis & Autoimmune Disorders Support Services

Learn more about multiple sclerosis and autoimmune disorders treatments at these websites: