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Multiple Sclerosis Regional Program

Minneapolis VA is a Multiple Sclerosis Regional Program partner in the VA Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence Program.

The Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence Program (MSCoE) was established to better understand multiple sclerosis, its impact on Veterans and effective treatments to help manage the disease and its symptoms.

Multiple sclerosis health care

Our goal is to maximize quality of life for Veterans with multiple sclerosis and to minimize impairment. We provide care for acute (sudden, short-term) and chronic (long-term) conditions.

Outpatient health care services

Ongoing, outpatient care with your neurology provider is typically the main treatment for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Physical medicine and rehabilitation providers help manage rehabilitative services and day-to-day symptoms in care. 

Rehabilitation care services

Veterans with MS in the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder Center may receive care which includes outpatient specialty care, primary care and inpatient care. These services are provided by physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Your multiple sclerosis care team

  • Neurologist: Physician who specializes in diagnosis, treatment and management of the disease process of multiple sclerosis.
  • Physiatrist (rehabilitation physician): Physician who specializes in maintaining functional ability, quality of life and managing symptoms of multiple sclerosis. 
  • Advanced practice providers: Trained to aid in management of symptoms from multiple sclerosis. 
  • Primary care provider: Focuses on disease prevention and management of other comorbidities. 
  • Physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist: Therapist that work closely with the rehabilitation physician to help maintain function and lessen disability. 

Other team members might include:

  • Mental health provider to address comorbid mental health diagnoses.
  • Social worker to help support patient and their caregivers.
  • Dietician to promote optimal nutritional status.

Education: multiple sclerosis

What is MS?

"Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is the body’s control center. Each part of the brain controls specific functions. These include movement, balance, sensation, and reasoning. The brain controls these functions by sending and receiving messages through nerves. Nerves have a protective covering (myelin). With MS, the myelin on nerves in the brain and spinal cord is damaged. The loss of this covering causes messages traveling along affected nerves to slow or stop. This results in MS symptoms." From Veterans Health Library - Understanding Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

What are the different types of MS?

There are two types of multiple sclerosis – relapsing-remitting and progressive – which a patient could have when the disease begins. Additionally, a patient with relapsing-remitting MS may develop progressive MS.

  • Relapsing-remitting: This type of MS is characterized by clearly defined attacks of new or increasing neurologic symptoms. They are called attacks because the symptoms occur during a defined time period followed by a period of remission. During remission, symptoms may disappear completely. However for some patients, symptoms that are experienced during an attack may remain, even during periods of remission. In relapsing-remitting MS, there is no progression of disease (the disease doesn't get worse) during remission. 
  • Progressive: This type of MS is characterized by a slow decline or worsening neurologic function (accumulation of disability) from the start of their symptoms. A patient may start with relapsing and remitting MS which then becomes progressive. This is known as secondary progressive. In other cases, a patient may never have relapsing or remitting periods. This is called primary progressive.

Are there conditions similar to MS?

Clinically Isolated Syndrome, single attack.

In this case multiple sclerosis is not diagnosed. In this condition a patient may experience neurologic symptoms for at least 24 hours affecting their nerves. This can happen to one area of the body or multiple areas of the body, such as numbness in the arm, or numbness in the arm and leg on one side of the body.

  • Monofocal: A person will experience a single neurologic symptom, like arm numbness. This is caused by a single lesion in the Central Nervous System. Another example would be optic neuritis which is describes as eye pain, specifically with eye movements.
  • Multifocal: A person will experience multiple neurologic symptoms at the same time. This would look like several areas of the body being affects such as arm and leg numbness during an attack.

Risk factors and diagnosis

Risk factors for MS

  • Living in areas far from the equator
  • Low levels of vitamin D and low levels of sunlight
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

Multiple sclerosis diagnosis

The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis requires evidence of at least two areas of damage in the central nervous system. One clinical test cannot give the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. In order to make the diagnosis of MS a patient must have the following:

  • Evidence of damage in at least two separate areas of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves) AND
  • Evidence that the damage occurred at different points in time AND
  • Rule out other possible diagnoses

Multiple sclerosis symptoms

More common symptoms

  • MS hug (Dysesthesia)
  • Fatigue
  • Walking difficulties
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Spasticity
  • Weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Vertigo and dizziness
  • Bladder problems
  • Sexual problems
  • Bowel problems
  • Pain and itching
  • Cognitive changes
  • Emotional changes
  • Depression

Less common symptoms

  • Speech problems
  • Loss of taste
  • Swallowing problems
  • Tremor
  • Seizures
  • Breathing problems

Multiple sclerosis resources

National MS Society

The National MS Society's vision is: A World Free of MS. The Society's mission is: We will cure MS while empowering people affected by MS to live their best lives.

Multiple Sclerosis Home Care Assistance Grant - Multiple Sclerosis Foundation

Homecare Assistance Grant connects patients and caregivers to available local services.

National Alliance on Caregiving

Mission - We build partnerships in research, advocacy, and innovation to make life better for family caregivers.