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Central Nervous System in focus

CNSThe central nervous system (CNS) is the part of the body's nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord. It’s the system of complex nerve tissues that controls most functions of the body and mind.

The brain is the centre of our thoughts, the interpreter of our external environment, and the origin of control over bodily movement. Like a central computer, it interprets information from our eyes (sight), ears (sound), nose (smell), tongue (taste), and skin (touch), as well as from internal organs such as the stomach.

The spinal cord is the highway for communication between the body and the brain.

Central nervous system problems can be complex, they may occur slowly and cause a gradual loss of function (known as ‘degenerative’), or they may happen suddenly and cause life-threatening problems (known as ‘acute’). Symptoms may be mild, or severe and debilitating, either way, they can cause great distress. Some of the more commonly known disorders within CNS are multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. 

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common cause of neurological disability in young adults and affects more than 2.5 million people worldwide,1 and around 100,000 people in the UK.2

MS is a disease of the central nervous system, meaning it affects the brain, spinal cord and nerves. In MS, the layer of fatty protein that protects the nerve cells, becomes damaged. This disrupts the way in which the nerves communicate with the brain, leading to potentially wide ranging symptoms. These include:

  • Loss of vision (usually only in one eye)
  • Fatigue (feeling tired during the day)
  • Spasticity (muscle stiffness and/or uncontrolled muscle movement)
  • Ataxia (difficulties with balance and coordination)

There is currently no cure for MS, and the way people are affected by the condition can vary significantly depending on how much damage has occurred to the nerve cells.

MS is complex and can cause many different symptoms, so it's not easy to diagnose. Most people won't experience them all, or may experience a combination of symptoms at the same time. MS is different for everyone.

Diagnosis

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when MS begins, because as mentioned above, the early signs and symptoms can vary widely from patient to patient. It is not uncommon for a diagnosis to take several months whilst a range of other possible causes need to be explored and many different tests are to be carried out. Inevitably, getting to a diagnosis can be frustratingly slow and distressing in itself.

Most people who experience unexplained symptoms won't have MS. However, if you're concerned that you may have MS, you should discuss your concerns with your GP.

Most people are diagnosed between between the ages of 20 and their late 60s,2 but it can affect younger and older people too. In the majority of patients, their MS is described as relapsing-remitting,3 which comes in the form of relapses and slow progression of the disease that can affect the functioning of multiple bodily systems.

Support for patients with MS

Supporting patients now and in the future

We continue to explore opportunities to expand into other neurodegenerative and central nervous system conditions. Our intent remains, as always, to provide patients with the most effective and safest treatments for their diseases.

Our work with patients, and our experience in this therapy area, means we are well placed to invest in extensive research into potential cures and medicines to help alleviate the many symptoms of MS and other central nervous system disorders, to offer patients and healthcare professionals a wider choice of treatments.

1 https://www.mstrust.org.uk/a-z/prevalence-and-incidence-multiple-sclerosis accessed 10.04.18

2 http://www.mssociety.org.uk/what-is-ms accessed 10.04.18

3 https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg186/chapter/introduction accessed 10.04.18