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The Importance of MS Awareness and Education Month

By Matt Cavallo

March is National MS Awareness and Education Month. There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, but since my diagnosis there have been several scientific and technological breakthroughs that provide hope. Raising awareness and educating yourself and others is a critical part of living well with multiple sclerosis. In honor of National MS Awareness and Education Month, we wanted to share some multiple sclerosis facts to help increase your education and awareness of MS. 

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is the most common, sometimes disabling, neurological disorder across the globe. MS is a central nervous system disorder which disrupts the flow of information between the brain and different parts of the body. Among others, MS symptoms can commonly affect walking, vision, thinking, speaking, sensation, and memory. MS is unpredictable, and the cause is unknown.

When are people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis?

Anyone can be diagnosed with MS at any time. However, most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40.

Who gets diagnosed with MS?

Women outnumber men by a 2 to 1 ratio in being diagnosed with MS. In the United States, more than 400,000 women and men live with multiple sclerosis, and there are about 200 newly diagnosed people with MS each week. There are thought to be more than 2.5 million people living with MS worldwide. 

Where is the biggest prevalence of MS diagnosis?

MS can be diagnosed anywhere, however there is a correlation between where you live and the prevalence of others with MS. Those living in the United States, the northern states, above the 37th parallel, have nearly double the risk of developing MS than those who live in the southern states. Northern states have a ratio of 110 to 140 cases of MS per 100,000 people, whereas the southern states have 57 to 78 cases of MS per 100,000 people. 

How is MS diagnosed? 

There is no single test or procedure to diagnose MS. Rather, there is a three-step diagnostic criteria that neurologists or physicians use to diagnosis MS. A person must have evidence of damage in two or more areas in the brain, spine, or optic nerve. Next, there must be evidence to support that this damage happened at different points of time. Finally, all other diagnostic possibilities must be ruled out. 

To complete a diagnosis, a neurologist or physician has many tools at their disposal. Personal medical history and blood tests can be used to help rule out other diagnoses. Magnetic resonance imaging is the most non-invasive way to take images of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve and is the preferred method to help establish a diagnosis. A lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, collects cerebrospinal fluid to look for an abnormal autoimmune response. Evoked Potentials is another diagnostic tool that measures the electrical activity of the brain in response to specific nerve stimulation. None of these tools alone determine a diagnosis of MS, but rather when used together can give a physician or neurologist a clearer diagnosis picture.

At MS Focus, we have created awareness kits that can help educate and build awareness for MS. These kits include:
  • MS: Everything You Need to Know - this booklet explains MS in easy to understand terms. Share it with those who are unfamiliar with MS.
  • Finding the Help You Need - use this brochure to familiarize people with the important work of MS Focus and the free services available to people with MS. 
  • Awareness wristbands - these ever popular flexible orange bracelets help raise awareness wherever you wear them.

There is still time left in MS Awareness and Education Month to get your free kit! Click on the following link to get yours mailed to you free of charge today!

https://msfocus.org/Get-Involved/MS-Awareness-Month/NMSEAM-Awareness-Kits.aspx