With so many medical words to get used to appointments can feel overwhelming, but they don’t need to be! Use the explanations below to help make sense of these.

Persistent worry about major or minor concerns that interferes with daily activities, such as work, school or sleep. Anxiety can disrupt relationships and enjoyment of life, but can be managed by lifestyle changes, counselling and/or treatments.

A condition where, often for unknown reasons, the body attacks its own tissues as if they were foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.

Brain atrophy, or brain volume loss (BVL), is the loss of tissue in the brain due to the loss of neurons and the connections between them. Brain atrophy occurs in everyone and is a normal part of aging, but the damage caused by MS can make this happen a little bit faster.

The central nervous system receives, processes and stores information from the peripheral nerves and sends out messages telling the body how to respond. This consists of the brain and spinal cord and is enclosed within the skull and spine.

Persisting for a long time or constantly recurring. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease. Other examples of chronic diseases include cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Your cognition refers to processes involved in knowing, learning and understanding things. These processes include memory, thinking, processing information, attention and concentration.

This is a type of talking therapy that can help you to manage your problems by helping you to understand and change the way you think and behave. This can help you with problems such as anxiety and depression.

Counselling is a type of talking therapy - you can discuss how you’re feeling confidentially with your therapist and they may be able to suggest ways to help you deal with certain problems such as anxiety.

A treatment used to treat a variety of conditions. It can help reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.

A group of treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS). They may work to slow the damage in MS such as lesions and brain shrinkage. They can potentially help to reduce the number and severity of relapses and slow disability progression.

A system in the body that distinguishes everything foreign to the body and protects it against infections and foreign substances.
Normally inflammation is how your body reacts to injury or infection. Inflammation is one way in which your body fights against foreign substances like bacteria and viruses while also getting rid of any of your cells which are already dying. But if inflammation happens when it’s not supposed to, it can cause damage, like in MS.

Also called an intravenous infusion, an infusion is a method used to administer treatments directly into the vein via a drip and is usually carried out in hospital.

A way of administering medication using a needle and syringe. There are different types of injections including subcutaneous (which are injected under the skin) and intramuscular (which are injected into the muscle).

A lesion (also called a plaque) is an area of the central nervous system that has been damaged or scarred by MS. Sclerosis means scarred. Lesions look like white patches on an MRI scan. Lesions are caused by the inflammation that happens when the immune system attacks myelin.13

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues in the body. MRI is used on the brain and spinal cord to help diagnose multiple sclerosis.14

A chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system (CNS). In multiple sclerosis, inflammation attacks the myelin and stops and/or limits the information transmission from nerves.5

The protective layer around the nerve fibres in the central nervous system (CNS), which the immune system mistakenly attacks in MS, causing inflammation.5

A condition which occurs when the optic nerve, which transmits images from the retina to the brain, becomes inflamed. This can lead to symptoms such as: blurring or a blind spot in the centre of your vision, colours appearing darker or washed out, light flashes when you move your eyes and pain, especially when you move your eyes.15

A medication such as a tablet or capsule that is taken by mouth.16

The name for an event when new symptoms of relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) appear, or when old symptoms return to the same or a new area of the body for a period of 24 hours or more. You might also hear relapses called flare-ups, exacerbations, attacks, worsening, acute episodes or clinical events.8

When a person living with MS has partially or completely recovered from a relapse, and when few or no MS symptoms are currently present.8

The replacement of lost or damaged myelin. Failure to repair myelin and replace lost nerves cells can cause disability.8

Nerve fibres and tissue, which are enclosed in the spine and connect nearly all parts of the body to the brain. The spinal cord forms part of the central nervous system.4

  1. Anxiety. MS Trust. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  2. Autoimmunity. MS Trust. Available at: Last accessed: December 2017.
  3. Giovannoni G et al. (2017) Brain health: time matters in multiple sclerosis. Available at: Last accessed: July 2019.
  4. CNS. MS Trust. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  5. About MS. MS Society. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  6. Glossary (cognition). Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  7. Types of talking therapies. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  8. Relapse. MS Trust. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  9. Disease modifying therapies. MS Society. Available at: Last accessed: December 2017.
  10. Immune system. MS Trust. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  11. Multiple Sclerosis News Today – Infusion Treatments for MS. Available at: Last accessed: January 2020.
  12. Multiple sclerosis disease-modifying drugs: first-line treatments. Available at: Last accessed: January 2020.
  13. Lesions. MS Trust. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  14. MRI and MS: 7 things you need to know. MS Society. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  15. Optic neuritis. MS Trust. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  16. Multiple Sclerosis – Types of MS and MS Treatment Options. Available at: Last accessed: January 2020.

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