Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Center

Center Head: Patricia Coyle, MD

Our Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Center seeks to provide expert diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities to both adults and children, using the latest information about this disorder.

It is comprised of the MS Adult Comprehensive Care Center, and the Lourie Center for Pediatric MS. Having these two centers allows patients of all ages to have access to expert opinions for initial diagnosis or second opinions, current assessment, recommendations on best care, treatment for acute relapses, and symptomatic treatment. Patients have access to the state-of-the-art facilities including the most advanced neuro-imaging techniques, and may elect to participate in one of many ongoing clinical research trials for MS that are being conducted at Stony Brook.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects the central nervous system: the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. The most common form is relapsing MS where deficits such as decreased vision in one eye, pins and needles from the waist down, or double vision are noted consistently over several days to weeks before improving. The more unusual pattern, called progressive from onset MS, involves gradual worsening, most often in ability to walk, which occurs over months to years without recovery.

Ninety percent of people who are diagnosed with MS develop it between the ages of 15 and 50, but it can occasionally strike those both younger and older. Vitamin D deficiency, smoking and having had mononucleosis all increase one's risk. MS is more common in women, though Progressive MS affects men as often as women. MS patients may be clinically stable for long periods. However, the disease does not remit and there is ongoing accumulating permanent damage in untreated patients. Early diagnosis is very important, because there are a number of approved, disease-modifying therapeutics to treat the relapsing form of MS. The best long-term outcomes are seen when treatment is started early, so it is very important to recognize the earliest symptoms of MS.

MS appears to be caused by a complex pathologic process involving the impaired regulation of the immune system triggered by a yet unknown environmental or infectious agent in people with a genetic predisposition for the disease. Immune cells enter the central nervous system causing an immune attack ultimately resulting in the destruction of myelin, which covers projections of nerve cells that are called axons. When myelin is damaged, conduction of nerve impulses is impaired, leading to problems with motor skills, sensory perceptions, coordination or other functions. Axons and central nervous system cells are also damaged.