Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system. In MS, the coating around nerve fibres (called myelin) is damaged, causing a range of symptoms. Typically these include but are not excluded to vision problems, balance and dizziness, fatigue and stiffness and/or spasms.
Around 130,000 people in the UK (2.3M worldwide) have MS. It’s normally diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40, and affects almost twice as many women as men. Once diagnosed, MS stays with you for life, but treatments and specialists can help to manage the symptoms. There is currently no cure, but research is progressing fast.
A substance called myelin protects the nerve fibres in the central nervous system, which helps messages travel quickly and smoothly between the brain and the rest of the body.
In MS, your immune system, which normally helps to fight off infections, mistakes myelin for a foreign body and attacks it. This damages the myelin and strips it off the nerve fibres, either partially or completely, leaving scars known as lesions or plaques.
This damage disrupts messages travelling along nerve fibres – they can slow down, become distorted, or not get through at all.
As well as myelin loss, there can also sometimes be damage to the actual nerve fibres. It is this nerve damage that causes the accumulation of disability that can occur over time.
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