World Multiple Sclerosis Day: What you need to know

Picture: iStock

Picture: iStock

Over 5 000 South Africans are known to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

World Multiple Sclerosis Day, which is commemorated on May 30, aims to bring the global plight of MS sufferers to the fore by sharing stories and raising awareness for everyone affected by the disease.

In 2009, the MS International Federation (MSIF) and its members initiated the first World MS Day.  This year the campaign seeks to #BringingUsCloser and arms society with research of this disease.  The initiative aims to create positive change and increase global solidarity and hope for the future in the lives of more than 2.3 million MS sufferers globally.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system (CNS). In MS, the immune system attacks nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is one disease, but its course and symptoms vary from person to person.

MS is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, and is twice as likely in women as men. Approximately 2.3 million or 1 in 3 000 people in the world have MS. In South Africa, it is estimated that 5 000 people suffer from MS.

People with MS can experience many types of symptoms, which can affect nearly every part of the body and the mind.

  • Up to 90% of people with MS experience fatigue.
  • Within 15 years of onset, more than 50% of people with MS have difficulty walking.
  • Vision difficulties are common, and a first symptom in 15-20% of people with MS.
  • At least 80% of people with MS experience bladder issues.
  • Depression is approximately 2 times more likely in people with MS.
  • Sleep problems are twice as likely in people with MS.
Picture Thinkstock

Picture Thinkstock

Multiple sclerosis is categorised into different disease courses based on how the disease generally behaves, and whether or not there is disease activity and a steady increase in disability over time. The disease courses are relapsing-remitting MS, secondary progressive MS and primary progressive MS.

A person with MS, endures attacks by the immune system on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Disease activity in MS can cause symptoms and disability. Physical disability gets worse when disease activity causes more nerve cells to die. People may experience disability in different ways, depending on what part of the brain, spinal cord or optic nerves is affected.

A diagnosis of MS can greatly affect employment and career opportunities due to the unpredictability of the disease. As the disease progresses, disability can accumulate, making it more challenging to remain in work.

Typically, MS is diagnosed in young active people between the ages of 20-40 with decades of employment ahead of them. Unemployment levels among people with MS are higher than those in the general population. As a result, MS can lead to substantial economic losses for society. Therefore one of the goals of MS treatment is to control disease activity as early as possible.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society Inland Branch Chapter (MSSA) is a non-profit organisation whose objectives are to provide emotional and practical support to people with Multiple Sclerosis, their families, loved ones and carers, and to facilitate such support from other resources.

MSSA is a reliable resource hub pertaining to treatment and research initiatives and results. MSSA also bridges the gaps between patients and medical and para-medical professions. The society extends its services to other auto-immune or neurological disorders.

For more information on MS, visit Roche South Africa or contact the MS Society.

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