Learn about Multiple Sclerosis for National MS Awareness Week

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, more than 2.3 million people around the world are living with Multiple Sclerosis, or MS. MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and the central nervous system. The cells in someone’s body are attacking the Myelin sheath that protects the nerves, which causes the nerves themselves to degrade, thus leading to a significant decrease in the rate of transportation of messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

  This year, from March 10 through March 16, it will be National MS Awareness Week. Every year, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society will select a week, usually in March, for an awareness week, and a day, usually at the end of May, for World MS Day. The next World MS Day will be on Thursday, May 30, 2019. There is always a theme for MS Day, and this year it is #MyInvisibleMS. They chose this because the disease is not visible just by looking at someone. This theme will hopefully raise awareness by sending the message that even though you can’t see it, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

  Although Multiple Sclerosis has many effects, most of them are symptoms that could have many causes, so people do not always think of MS being the culprit. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the most common symptoms include, fatigue, stiffness, pain, depression, muscle spasms, vision problems, numbness, weakness, and walking difficulties. Other effects that can occur, but are not seen as frequently are speech and hearing problems, seizures, breathing problems, tremors, and difficulties swallowing.

  Researchers are still trying to figure out the cause of MS, but they have been able to find a few patterns in who it affects. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, women are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed than men, which have led researchers to believe that hormones may play a role in getting MS. It is also more common for those who live farther from the equator to have Multiple Sclerosis, however scientists have seen areas that are extremely far from the equator with very few cases of MS, and they believe it might also be ethnic based. Finally, MS is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, but it is possible to be diagnosed outside of that range.

  There are four types of MS, however, every case is different and specific to the person who has it. According to multiplesclerosis.com, Relapsing-Remitting MS is the most common, and describes people who will have relapse periods, which are temporary, where their symptoms might get worse or they will find new symptoms. Secondary-Progressive MS is where the disease will steadily get worse over time, and some might experience flare-ups, while others do not. Primary-Progressive MS only affects 10% of those who are diagnosed and describes when the patient does not have any relapse or remission periods, but the disease continues to progress and at a slow rate. The final and most rare form of MS, affecting only 5%, is Progressive-Relapsing MS, which is where from diagnosis, the disease will continuously get worse, but the patient will not experience any remissions, only relapses.

  Currently, there is no cure for MS, but there are many ways for those who have it to alleviate some of their symptoms. Some people, if MS has affected their movement, will go to physical therapy in order to work to improve their balance, decrease stiffness and improve their walking ability.

  Another treatment is an infusion. According to Healthline, there are currently four possible drugs that can be infused as MS treatment. The first option is Alemtuzumab, or Lemtrada, which is used for patients who have not responded to other medicines. The next one is Natalizumab, or Tysabri, which according to WebMD, is used to slow the progressing MS symptoms for those who have a relapsing form of the disease. Mitoxantrone hydrochloride is given to patients whose MS is getting worse quickly. The last and newest infusible drug is Ocrelizumab, or Ocrevus, which was only just approved by the FDA in 2017. It is given to patients with relapsing forms or primary progressive forms of Multiple Sclerosis.

  With so much still unknown about it, researchers are hard at work, trying to find answers. There are different ways people can get involved to help. All across the country, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society will put on one or two day charity bike rides where people can ride in teams or individually, anywhere from 25 to 150 miles. Another fundraiser put on is Walk MS, which is similar to any other Walk-a-thon. A few years ago, there was even a Walk MS event at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. One of the newer events that the National MS Society has started is the MuckFest MS, which is a 5k mud run obstacle course that does not need any special training to complete.

  Hopefully with continued research, we will soon be able to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. Be sure to wear orange sometime during this week and on May 30, to support MS.

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