National MS Education and Awareness Month is an effort by the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (MSF) and affiliated groups to raise the public’s awareness of multiple sclerosis. The vital goals of this campaign are to promote an understanding of the scope of this disease, and to assist those with MS in making educated decisions about their healthcare.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system, comprised of the brain and spinal cord. MS happens when your immune system attacks a fatty material called myelin, which wraps around your nerve fibers to protect them. Without this outer shell, your nerves become damaged. Scar tissue may form. The damage means your brain can’t send signals through your body correctly. Your nerves also don’t work as they should to help you move and feel. As a result, you may have symptoms like: trouble walking, feeling tired, muscle weakness or spasms, blurred or double vision, numbness and tingling, sexual problems and poor bladder or bowel control.
The first symptoms often start between ages 20 and 40. Most people with MS have attacks, also called relapses, when the condition gets noticeably worse. They’re usually followed by times of recovery when symptoms improve. For other people, the disease continues to get worse over time. There is no known cause, and as yet, no cure. However, there are treatments that can slow the progress of the disease and manage the symptoms.
Statistics indicate that there are currently 350,000 to 500,000 people in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with MS. An estimated two hundred people are diagnosed with MS every week and more than 2.5 million people are living with the disease worldwide.
MS is more common in women, appears more frequently in Caucasians than in Hispanics or African Americans, and is relatively rare among Asians and certain other ethnic groups. MS is most commonly diagnosed in individuals between the ages of 20 and 50, although it can develop in young children and teens as well as older adults.
All of the MSF’s resources are available through one number: 888-MSFOCUS (673-6287) or online at www.msfocus.org.