Spotlight on Multiple Sclerosis

“The first neurologist I went to see about my MS brushed off my questions and concerns about medications and made me feel helpless, as if no matter what lifestyle changes I made, MS would cripple me…” – anonymous patient participant in our “Autoimmunity Voices” survey

Patient stories such as this are all too common. Given that approximately 400,000 people in the US are living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), with an estimated 2.5 million cases worldwide, it is very possible that you or someone you love has been affected by this autoimmune disease. Since so many people are either directly or indirectly affected, as Your Autoimmunity Connection, we decided to shine our spotlight on Multiple Sclerosis… there is strength in numbers!

Read on to become connected with available statistics, research initiatives, supportive patient communities, and still more resources. And check out our Facebook page and forum for more MS-related updates!

What do the numbers show?

Current available statistics on MS estimate that…

  • In the US, 200 new MS cases are diagnosed each week.
  • The mean age of onset is 32 years, with diagnosis most often in the age range of 20-50.
  • MS is diagnosed 2 to 3 times more frequently in women than in men.

A startling reality is that the last study of prevalence of MS in the US was conducted in 1975. Given that MS presents itself as an “invisible disease” with variable symptoms that wax and wane in severity, we have no idea how closely estimates of its prevalence track reality. MS also has a highly variable course across individual patients, affecting different parts of the body at different levels of severity.

The National MS Society leads the charge of reevaluating and updating statistics on MS. Our team at Your Autoimmunity Connection is working to connect patients (and their support systems) with one another and with currently available resources.

The good news for those of you reading this – whether you are affected by MS, have a loved one who is affected, or are simply generally interested – is that the life expectancy for most people with MS is often normal, or close to normal. There are many pharmaceutical treatments available, although matching them to the individual patient can be challenging and some may have serious side effects. More recently comes the understanding from alternative approaches that include lifestyle changes. Most notably, diet, supplements and exercise, may help moderate or even reverse symptoms, prevent flares, and complement or reduce the need for pharmaceuticals.

Check out our food spotlight on MS to learn more about which foods may be the best or worst for your symptoms!

Connecting you with available resources

Back to basics – brush up on general MS information

If you’ve reached this page and read this far along, chances are high that you already have at least some background knowledge about MS. However, it can’t hurt to brush up on the basics. The following pages each provide a comprehensive overview of MS:

  • National MS Society: What is MS?
    • Differentiate between types of MS, peruse the FAQs, and more.
  • Cleveland Clinic: Disease Management – MS
    • Familiarize yourself with common signs and symptoms, what to expect of diagnosis, and possible treatments.
  • Mayo Clinic: Multiple Sclerosis Overview
    • Learn about risk factors, possible courses of disease, complications, and how to connect with specialist doctors and departments.

For the recently diagnosed

Are you just starting out on your journey of living with MS? These resources may be helpful for you in coordinating your healthcare team and maintaining your optimal wellbeing:

For anyone affected – find your patient community

  • National MS Society: Resources – Support
    • Browse educational resources, connect with other patients, and find programs nearby.
  • MS Connection
    • Participate in online discussions, join support groups, or browse their blog.
  • Multiple Sclerosis Insight & Encouragement Facebook Forum
    • Connect online with other patients to receive and offer helpful knowledge and support. Patients in this forum seem to be particularly active and engaged, but a search on Facebook may offer you more options, too!

What’s happening in research?

We’ve picked out a few of our favorite research resources – get caught up on recent findings, informed of future directions, and tap into your potential for involvement as a patient:

  • National MS Society: Research
    • Explore MS research news & updates, studies funded by the National MS Society, and opportunities for your participation in research initiatives.
  • Science Daily: Multiple Sclerosis Research News
    • Read up on recent studies that have focused on blood sample detection, possible environmental and lifestyle triggers, successes in clinical trials, and more.
  • Medical Xpress: Taurine lends hand to repair cells damaged in multiple sclerosis
    • This new study suggests an endogenous metabolite, the amino acid taurine, may spark remyelination and boost the effectiveness of current MS therapies.

What is one thing everyone should know about MS?

When looking at the big picture, we must remember that MS falls within the larger category of autoimmune diseases, of which there are over 100 individual diseases. The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) estimates that 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. What’s more, a research study estimated that approximately 25% of patients with autoimmune diseases have a tendency to develop additional autoimmune diseases. For example, statistics show that people with other autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 Diabetes, Thyroid Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease are at a slightly increased risk of developing MS.

We hope that shining the spotlight on MS this month connects you with beneficial resources and information. However, we would like to emphasize the need to take a holistic approach in tackling the autoimmune disease epidemic. By looking at all autoimmune diseases together, we can move away from fragmented statistics that hide the magnitude of the problem and towards concerted action in reshaping research, diagnosis, and treatment. Our model is the revolution in cancer research and treatment that has come from viewing cancer as a group of diseases with common etiologies, thus garnering more resources than individual types of cancer.

Where did we get this data, and where can you find more?

The following pages present statistics surrounding MS incidence, prevalence, and more. Some of these “fast facts” you may be familiar with, but others may surprise you.

Get acquainted with Your Autoimmunity Connection

[1] Cojocaru, M, Inimioara Mihaela Cojocaru, and Isabela Silosi. “Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome.” Mædica 5.2 (2010): 132–134. Print.


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