Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a very unpredictable disease and can be a devastating. March is MS awareness month. MS is twice as common as previously thought, according to a recent study – that means nearly 1 million people in the U.S. are living with MS. Globally, the number is about 2.5 million people.
While anyone can get it, there are common factors or traits among people with MS. MS occurs most often between the ages of 20 to 50 years old and it is three to four times more likely to show up in women. The disease is also more common in those of Northern European descent. Interestingly, this condition is more common the further north you are from equator. For example, in the southern part of the U.S. the rate of MS is 57-78 cases per 100,000 people. Looking at the mid to northern states, the rate increases to 110-140 cases per 100,000. While it is not considered a disease you inherit from your mom or dad, there may be a genetic disposition to developing the MS: about 15% of people with MS have one or more family members with MS.
There is no specific test that can determine if you have MS. It is diagnosed through information collected from medical history, reported symptoms, and other tests. MRI, spinal fluid analysis, blood tests, and nerve tests often help this process. Some of the symptoms include:
- Blurred or double vision
- Decrease in hearing, smell, and taste
- Numbness, tingling, or burning in arms or legs
Many treatments are available to help people living with MS, as there is no cure at this time. The medical specialist will help the patient choose what works best for them. You can learn more about MS at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.