MS is a disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) which includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

The CNS is responsible for our conscious and unconscious functioning, including movement and the response to sensations such as sight, touch and hearing. It directs these functions by sending its instructions in the form of electrical impulses to the appropriate sites along nerve fibres. Nerve fibres are coated in a protective insulating covering called the myelin sheath - this serves a very similar function to the coating around electrical wires. Myelin is important in speeding electrical conduction along nerve fibres and in insulating nerve fibres from one another.

The term multiple sclerosis refers to multiple areas of scarring (sclerosis) scattered throughout the brain and spinal cord. These scars are the result of healing patches of inflammation that are the basic cause of damage to nerve fibres and of the suddenly appearing symptoms that are referred to as an attack, exacerbation or relapse. Patches of inflammation heal spontaneously over several weeks or months when symptoms may resolve completely or residual impairment may result, if they do not. The inflammation causes damage particularly to the insulating myelin sheath covering nerve fibres, but also damages the nerve fibres (axons) themselves. In MS, the typical damage is often referred to as “demyelination”. The nature of the symptoms and their severity depends partly on the site of the patch of inflammation (or lesion) and partly on its nature and intensity.

The course of MS varies widely from person to person. Some people will only ever experience mild symptoms over their lifetime while others will have relapses followed by incomplete remission when disability may worsen in a stepwise fashion with each relapse experienced. A number of people experience slowly progressive, worsening of disability over many months or years. There is uncertainty how much of this progressive process is due to low-grade inflammation and how much to loss of previously damaged nerve fibres.

Learn more about Multiple Sclerosis by visiting the official head office website through the following links:

  • MS is a chronic disease of the Central Nervous System.
  • MS means, literally, "many scars."
  • The cause of MS is unknown. It could be a virus, an auto-immune reaction, or a combination.
  • MS is not preventable or curable (YET!).
  • MS is NOT contagious.
  • MS is NOT congenital, but there are some hereditary factors.
  • MS usually strikes people when they are aged 20-40.
  • More women than men get MS. There are approximately 3 women to every man with MS.
  • The occurrence of MS is highest in temperate zones (such as New Zealand and northern Europe).
  • Even in high-risk areas, MS rarely strikes certain racial groups (e.g. Maori and Polynesians, native Americans, black South Africans).
  • The name Multiple Sclerosis was first applied to the disease in 1868 (by Charcot in France).
  • Most people with MS lead a fairly normal life, most of the time.
  • Symptoms of MS usually appear, and disappear unpredictably.
  • People with MS need to get adequate rest to reduce fatigue.


A series of booklets covering information about specific symptoms and their management. Contact us if you require any further information. Hard copies of any of the titles in the series are available through your Regional Society.


The Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand produces MS Voice, the quarterly newsletter. MS Voice aims to provide informative and beneficial content about living well and experiencing life with MS and is available in Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring in electronic format. If you would like to subscribe to MS Voice please submit your request here: subcribe to MS Voice here

publications-1This is a free, at-home educational series for people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis within the last 12 months, their families, and support network. Knowledge is Power was developed in the USA. It has been written by professionals who know about MS and the effect it can have on your life and the lives of those around you. The programme has been adapted by MS Australia and used there. MSSNZ has recently reviewed it for the New Zealand context and it is now available here
How do I sign up? You can contact us or download the form to sign up for Knowledge is Power.

The Head Office has a moderate collection of books and videos available for borrowing via your regional Society. All items are issued for 28 days, and there is a limit of two items at a time. A list of current items is available here.  Contact MS South Canterbury, Community House, 03 687 7375, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to borrow any of the items listed.

The national office of the 18 MS Socieities throughout the country. Visit Website:

Join people from all over the world many who share similar experiences to you. Get the latest up to date information.Meet new friends. Whatever your reason - make sure you visit the MS Facebook page. Available free to you 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. Visit Website:

Visit this great site for international news and views on Multiple Scerlosis. Visit Website:

Disability Information Service is a free information service that provides disability and health related information to the Otago region. On their website you'll find information on the services and support on offer as well as information on support groups and accessible accommodation in Otago. Visit Website:

Field Officer Don has been advised by Work & Income that as policies for the benefits are frequently changing it is best to view the Ministry of Social Development webiste to gain the most updated information. Visit Website:

If you want to know more about your rights when using health and disability services, get questions answered or make a complaint, they can help you to find an independent advocate. Visit Website:


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