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Nurse Practitioner Perspectives: Multiple Sclerosis Awareness


By Jeneen Hinkle, RN, DNP, FNP-C

Assistant Professor

March is multiple sclerosis (MS) awareness month. Are you aware that MS is the most common non-traumatic disabling neurologic condition in young adults? The average age of MS at onset is around 20 to 40 years; however, onset can occur in younger or older individuals. Females are affected three times more than males and, in 2017, more than 900,000 people were living with MS in the United States.

MS is an auto-immune disease that causes demyelination— or damage to the nerve fibers — of the central nervous system (CNS) and it has both neurodegenerative and inflammatory components. The degradation or breakdown of myelin causes disruptions in signals to and from the brain resulting in unpredictable symptoms, which can be temporary or long-term and can lead to permanent disability.

Making an MS diagnosis can be very challenging due to the transient nature, vagueness, and multitude of symptoms. For this reason, it is important to follow up on abnormal symptoms that last longer than 24 hours. Symptoms include but are not limited to severe motor fatigue, neuropathy, spasticity, cognitive impairments, vision challenges (including loss of vision, eye pain, and color discrimination absent of trauma), and bladder/bowel dysfunction. 

Keeping a record of abnormal symptoms to report to your provider, as early recognition of clinical symptoms can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment leading to better outcomes. Information from a patient interview or history, neurologic exam, and radiological and lab results collectively assist the provider in diagnosing MS. 

To learn more about multiple sclerosis diagnosis and treatment, visit