Who Gets MS?
MS is more common in women than men. Incidence of MS is greater in regions further from the equator and is more often found in Caucasians of northern European ancestry than in Hispanics/Latinos or African-Americans and is relatively rare among Asians and some other ethnic groups.
It is difficult to pinpoint when MS begins, but most people receive diagnosis between the ages of 20 and 40. Due to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), more children are being diagnosed with MS. Among young adults, MS is the most common disease of the central nervous system. (MS: Who Gets It and Why)
An estimated 2,500,000 people around the world have MS. In the United States, estimates vary widely, generally anywhere from 300,000 to 1,000,000. Because MS is not tracked by the Centers for Disease Control or any other federal agency, true numbers are hard to come by. Frustratingly, the U.S. lacks a coordinated effort to track the incidence of MS. (MS by the Numbers: But Who’s Counting?)
How is MS Diagnosed?
Diagnosis can take a few months or even a few years. Many common symptoms of MS mimic other diseases, and their tendency to come and go makes it difficult to doctors to pin down.
There is currently no single definitive test for MS. Diagnosis is made through neurological exam, a series of tests that may include MRI, various vision tests, spinal tap, and nerve and muscle tests. Doctors also use detailed patient history of symptoms and elimination of other diseases to finally arrive at the diagnosis.
What Causes MS?
The cause, though widely debated and researched, remains unknown. MS has long been thought to be an autoimmune disease — one in which the immune system reacts abnormally, causing the body to mistakenly attack itself.
Some studies are looking at the role of a virus or infectious agent.
Because of the lower incidence of MS in areas closer to the equator, exposure to sunlight and vitamin D are also being studied.
According to the National MS Society, genetic research has shown that having a first-degree relative with MS increases your risk of developing MS several times above that of the general population. Some researchers believe that a genetic predisposition to develop MS may combine with an environmental factor that sets off the course of the disease.
There are several disease-modifying injectable medications intended to decrease the number and severity of relapses and stave off permanent disability. Attacks are sometimes treated with steroids, and specific symptoms can also be treated.
It is crucial for people with MS to implement healthy lifestyle choices, including a balanced diet, exercise when possible, rest, and avoidance of tobacco and other harmful products to stay in the best possible health.
Controversial Liberation Treatment
It’s the biggest story in MS news in years! When Dr. Paolo Zamboni released the results of a preliminary study of MS patients indicating a link to chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), a narrowing of the veins that restricts the flow of blood from the brain, causing iron build up, and in turn causing the degeneration of neurons, MS patients around the world took notice. Could this be the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for? (Longing for Liberation)
Dr. Zamboni went on to attempt to treat MS patients with these vein abnormalities (Liberation Treatment) with some positive results. Although the treatment has not been carried out in great numbers, some good outcomes have fueled a worldwide clamor for the Liberation Treatment, as well as conflicting reports of results. (Care2 News: MS Patients Warn of Complications After ‘Liberation’)
Continuing research and a watchful eye by MS activists around the globe (Care2 Group: MS Liberation: End Multiple Sclerosis) will surely keep this story on the front burners.
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