Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic and potentially highly disabling disorder with considerable social impact and economic consequences. It is the major cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults. The social costs associated with MS are high because of its long duration, the early loss of productivity, the need for assistance in activities of daily living and the use of immunomodulatory treatments and multidisciplinary health care. Available MS epidemiological estimates are aimed at providing a measure of the disease burden in Europe. The total estimated prevalence rate of MS for the past three decades is 83 per 100,000 with higher rates in northern countries and a female:male ratio around 2.0. Prevalence rates are higher for women for all countries considered. The highest prevalence rates have been estimated for the age group 35-64 years for both sexes and for all countries. The estimated European mean annual MS incidence rate is 4.3 cases per 100,000. The mean distribution by disease course and by disability is also reported. Despite the wealth of epidemiological data on MS, comparing epidemiological indices among European countries is a hard task and often leads only to approximate estimates. This represents a major methodological concern when evaluating the MS burden in Europe and when implementing specific cost-of-illness studies.