Multiple Sclerosis means that you may not be able to walk when you wake up. Or that you may suddenly have impaired vision. Or that your memory will fail you for no apparent reason. The symptoms of MS are different and devastating for everyone. The only certainty is that it will affect yet another person every hour of every day. There is no cure for MS.

That's why many of your friends and neighbors will be participating in the MS Walk on Sunday, April 25 at the West End Fairgrounds in Gilbert. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the Walk begins at 10 a.m.

MS affects women more than men. The disorder most commonly begins between ages 20 and 40, but can be seen at any age.

MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).

It is caused by damage to the myelin sheath, the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells. When this nerve covering is damaged, nerve impulses are slowed down or stopped.

MS is a progressive disease, meaning the nerve damage (neurodegeneration) gets worse over time. How quickly MS gets worse varies from person to person.

The nerve damage is caused by inflammation. Inflammation occurs when the body's own immune cells attack the nervous system. Repeated episodes of inflammation can occur along any area of the brain and spinal cord.

Researchers are not sure what triggers the inflammation. The most common theories point to a virus or genetic defect, or a combination of both.

Symptoms vary, because the location and severity of each attack can be different. Episodes can last for days, weeks, or months. These episodes alternate with periods of reduced or no symptoms (remissions).

Because nerves in any part of the brain or spinal cord may be damaged, patients with multiple sclerosis can have symptoms in many parts of the body.

There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis at this time. However, there are therapies that may slow the disease. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms and help maintain a normal quality of life.

Medications are used to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis. Physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, support groups, a planned exercise program early in the course of the disorder, a healthy lifestyle, with good nutrition, enough rest and relaxation, avoiding fatigue, stress, temperature extremes, and illness can aid those with MS.

People with a family history of MS and those who live in a geographical area with a higher incidence rate for MS have a higher risk of the disease.

Symptoms of MS may mimic those of many other nervous system disorders. The disease is diagnosed by ruling out other conditions.

MS may be suspected if there are decreases in the function of two different parts of the central nervous system (such as abnormal reflexes) at two different times.

A neurological exam may show reduced nerve function in one area of the body, or spread over many parts of the body. This may include: Abnormal nerve reflexes; decreased ability to move a part of the body, decreased or abnormal sensation; other loss of nervous system functions.

An eye examination may show: Abnormal pupil responses; changes in the visual fields or eye movements; decreased visual acuity; problems with the inside parts of the eye; rapid eye movements triggered when the eye moves.

The outcome varies, and is hard to predict. Although the disorder is chronic and incurable, life expectancy can be normal or almost normal. Most people with MS continue to walk and function at work with minimal disability for 20 or more years.

There is no cure for MS.

That is why the National MS Society holds MS Walks each year, to create a world free of MS, to find a cure.

If you would like to do something and want to prevent more people from learning what it means to live with this disease, you might want to consider participating in the local MS Walk to be held on Sunday, April 25 at the West End Fairgrounds in Gilbert. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the Walk starts at 10 a.m.

For more information, please contact Marge Myler at bemmmm@ptd.net.