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A Different Alphabet Soup

Posted Jun 16 2008 6:12pm

A diligent poster atPatients Like Me, created a master list of abbreviations used in the online M.S. community. Recently I was talking with a colleague who had just found out that I had M.S. She asked about the Band-Aids on my hand and arm (I had just come from a three hour MRI session, complete with an infusion of dye to make my spots show up better for the camera). I was often speaking in acronyms, pausing to define what I was actually trying to communicate. To this day the hubby (or in M.S. lingo, D.H. = Dear Hubby) can often be heard asking,“What the heck are you talking about?”when my sentences are full of M.S. jargon and abbreviations. My writing often contains a little more of the same.

When I bumped into this terrific list (edited for content not related to M.S.), I thought it would be important to share here in the Sunshine. If you’re a friend or loved one of a “MightySuper” patient (i.e. aPWMS– see below), you’ll likely hear one or two or gazillions of these words or phrases in your lifetime. Thanks to Liz from PLM (Patients Like Me) for creating the list and related links.

CNS:Central Nervous System

Cog Fog: Cognitive problems, often called “brain fog” or “fibro fog.” The difficulties, which many people find very distressing, include being forgetful, feeling confused, difficulty concentrating and the inability to speak clearly. There is a good article on this page listing some of the causes as well as some treatments and strategies for dealing with “cog fog.”

CRABs:Refers to four of the drugs available to treat Multiple Sclerosis: Copaxone, Rebif, Avonex, and Betaseron. (A newer drug not included in thiscommonly used abbreviation is Tysabri.)

CSF:Cerebral Spinal Fluid

CT (or CAT scan): Computed Topography, orCAT Scan. A noninvasive, painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.

DMD:Disease modifying drug

Deep Tendon Reflexes

DVT:Deep Vein Thrombosis- the formation of a blood clot (”thrombus”) in a deep vein.


Electromyography. A technique for evaluating and recording physiologic properties of muscles at rest and while contracting. EMG is performed using an instrument called an electromyograph, to produce a record called an electromyogram. An electromyograph detects the electric potential generated by muscle cells when these cells contract, and also when the cells are at rest.

Epstein-Barr Virus

Electroencephalogram  A test that measures and records the electrical activity of your brain.

Exacerbation:An increase in the severity of symptoms; one or more symptoms may come and go in succession or together. MS exacerbations usually involve an increase in previous symptoms, lasting weeks or months. Acute attacks are usually followed by complete or partial remission (the abatement or diminution of symptoms).

Footdrop:Impaired or absent voluntary dorsiflexion (lifting) of the foot. The normal heel-toe pattern of walking is disturbed, causing the toes to touch the ground before the heel, resulting in tripping and loss of balance.

GERD:Gastoresophageal Reflux Disease(recurring “heartburn”)



IVIG:Intravenous Immunoglobulin- a blood product administered intravenously. It contains the pooled IgG immunoglobulins (antibodies extracted from the plasma of over a thousand blood donors)

IVSM:Intravenous Solumedrol. (Solumedrol is also known as methylprednisolone.) A corticosteroid, to relieve inflammation (swelling, heat, redness, and pain). The drug will be added to an intravenous fluid that will drip through a needle or catheter placed in your vein for at least 1 hour per day.

LP:Lumbar puncture(also spinal tap)  A diagnostic and at times therapeutic procedure that is performed in order to collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid.

MAOI:MonoAmine Oxidase Inhibitor. A type of antidepressant drug which prevents the breakdown of dopamine. It is also used in Parkinson’s disease as the drug selegiline, where in combination with an L-dopa containing drug such as Sinemet, it helps boost the latter’s efficacy.

MRI:Magnetic Resonance ImageryA medical imaging technique primarily used in radiology to visualize the structure and function of the body. It provides detailed images of the body in any plane.

MSRS:Multiple Sclerosis Rating Scale. A measure developed by PatientsLikeMe to track MS progression

NCS:Nerve Conduction Study. A test commonly used to evaluate the function, especially the ability of electrical conduction, of the motor and sensory nerves of the human body. (Often you will see EMG/NCS, denoting Electromyogram and Nerve Conduction Study)

Neuro:Neurologist - A doctor specializing in the study of nerves and the nervous system.

NMO:Neuromyelitis Optica (Devic’s Disease)

NSAID:Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug

ON:Optic neuritis- can be a symptom of MS. It is an inflammation of the optic nerve; it is classified as either intraocular, affecting the part of the nerve within the eyeball, or retrobulbar, affecting the portion behind the eyeball.

Phase I:Phase I trials are the first part of a medical trial to use human subjects, as opposed to animals in the pre-clinical stage. This phase includes trials designed to assess the safety (pharmacovigilance), tolerability, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of a drug and is not intended to test whether the drug does what it’s supposed to do. Most Phase I trials take place in healthy volunteers as opposed to people with the condition to be treated.

Phase II:Phase II clinical trials are the first stage of drug development designed to test efficacy and tolerability in patients and at the dosage at which the drug will probably be used clinically. Most drugs that fail clinical trials do so at this stage, usually due to toxicity or adverse events.

Phase III:Phase III clinical trials are the large, expensive studies used to determine a drug’s efficacy compared either to an inert (but identical-looking) pill called a placebo. Because the expectations of doctors and patients can affect outcomes, both are “blinded” as to whether each participant is receiving the drug or the placebo. Outcome measures vary according to the nature of the disease but may include survival, functional outcome, and/or quality of life.

PPMS:Primary progressive MS PPMS is characterized by a gradual progression of the disease from its onset with no superimposed relapses and remissions at all. There may be periods of a leveling off of disease activity and there may be good and bad days or weeks. (For more information on the varioustypes and stages of MS, here is a great site).

PRMS:Progressive relapsing MS, a rare type of MS that shows disease progression (increased disability) from onset, but with clear, acute relapses, with or without full recovery after each relapse. (For more information on the varioustypes and stages of MS, here is a great site).

PT:Physical therapist– Working with patients who have limited use of their own bodies due to injury or disability, a physical therapist builds flexibility, strength, and spirit.  A physical therapist’s goals are to reduce the patients’ pain, to increase their range of motion, and to give them back their sense of self-determination.

PWMS:Person with MS

RA:Rheumatoid Arthritis

Remission:A decrease in the severity or number of MS symptoms and signs, or their temporary disappearance.

RRMS:Relapsing-remitting MS, a clinical phase having distinct relapses (also called acute attacks or exacerbations), with either full recovery (no disability), or partial recovery and lasting disability. There is no visible disease progression (worsening) between attacks; but stable periods, span and mask, the continuing subclinical disease process.  (For more information on the varioustypes and stages of MS, here is a great site by one of our members.)


SE : Side effect.

Spinal Tap:(Also called alumbar puncture) A diagnostic and at times therapeutic procedure that is performed in order to collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid.

SPMS:Secondary progressive MS- MS that begins with a pattern of clear-cut relapses and recovery, but becomes steadily progressive over time with continued worsening between occasional acute attacks. (For more information on the varioustypes and stages of MS, here is a great site).

SR:Sustained Release. A formulation of a tablet which releases its active agent slower than the normal pill. Examples include Effexor SR (an antidepressant).

Social Security Disability Insurance. is a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program of the U.S. government. SSDI, managed by the Social Security Administration, is designed to provide income to people who are unable to work because of a disability. SSDI is intended to be provided until their condition improves, and is intended to guarantee income if the individual’s condition does not improve.

SSI:Supplemental Security Income.SSI is a government program that makes monthly payments to people who are blind, disabled and/or over 65 and have low income and few resources.

SSRI:Serotonin Specific Reuptake Inhibitor; a class of antidepressant drug which maintains higher levels of the mood-affecting neurotransmitter serotonin. Examples of SSRI’s include Paroxetine (Seroxat) and Fluoxetine (Prozac). This class of antidepressants is used in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, and some personality disorders.


TIA:Trans Ischemic Attack- temporary disturbance of blood supply to a restricted area of the brain (often colloquially referred to as a “mini stroke”).


UTI:Urinary tract infection  Urinary tract infections are a common issue with people with Multiple Sclerosis. 

W/C: Wheelchair



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