Multiple Sclerosis: The Facts

More than 9,000 people are living with Multiple Sclerosis in Ireland. Multiple Sclerosis (MS), meaning ‘many scars’, is the most common disabling neurological disease affecting young adults in Ireland. MS impacts the motor, sensory and cognitive functioning of the body and is usually diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age. 

MS is a progressive, neurological condition of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). MS symptoms or attacks include impaired mobility and vision, severe fatigue and cognitive difficulties. There is no known cause or cure for the condition. Approximately three times as many women than men are diagnosed with MS.

Types of MS

Relapsing – Remitting: This is the most common type of MS. It is characterized by attacks (relapses) and remissions (recovery). During remissions a person would have fewer or no symptoms. Relapses tend to be unpredictable and their causes are unclear. During a relapse new symptoms may occur or previous symptoms may return. A relapse is usually defined as the appearance of new symptoms lasting more than 48 hours. They can last any length of time.  In 85% of people with MS, it starts with a relapsing-remitting phase. 

Primary Progressive: Some people with MS never have distinct relapses and remissions. From the start they experience steadily worsening symptoms and progressive disability. This may level off at any time, or may continue to get worse. Some 15% of people with MS have the primary progressive form of the disease, also known as chronic progressive. 

Secondary Progressive: This type starts in the same way as relapsing-remitting MS but after repeated attacks the remissions stop and the MS moves into what is known as a progressive phase. Around 40% of people develop secondary progressive MS. The time it takes to move into the secondary progressive phase varies. It usually happens within 15 to 20 years of the first onset of MS. 

Living with MS

Please visit the MS & Me Blog 

MS Ireland is the national organisation providing services, information and advocacy to support people with MS. Ava Battles is Chief Executive of MS Ireland: “Multiple Sclerosis is a hugely challenging progressive neurological condition. The nature of MS relapses or attacks makes it very difficult to manage for people living with MS. MS Ireland is proud to support people in this community in helping to maintain independence and quality of life for example through seminars for those newly diagnosed, support for families living with MS, the provision of services including physiotherapy and counselling, the MS Information Line and respite care.”

For more information on Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and MS Ireland, visit our website on, call our information line on 1850 233 233 or email