The Facts of Multiple Sclerosis

The Facts of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis is far more common than many people realize. In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with roughly 77,000 known cases of the disease. An additional 11 new cases are diagnosed every single day, so chances are good that Multiple Sclerosis has affected your life (or the life of someone you know) in some way.

There are three main types of Multiple Sclerosis. Most patients – approximately 85% – are first diagnosed with Relapse-Remitting MS, which is characterized by semi-regular attacks or flare-ups that bring on new symptoms and exacerbate existing ones. The symptoms fade between those relapses, and can even disappear entirely for brief periods of time.

Most people with RRMS will eventually progress to Secondary-Progressive MS within 10-20 years. Once that occurs, the disease no longer goes into remission (or the remissions become less frequent). Instead, symptoms become steadily and progressively worse, often leading to increased levels of disability over the course of several years.

A smaller number (only 15%) of patients are diagnosed with Primary-Progressive MS, which is more aggressive than its RRMS counterpart. For people with PPMS, the symptoms will typically worsen (with increasing disability) from the onset of the disease. There may be moments of stability, but there are seldom any pronounced instances of relapse or remission.

So what kind of person is at risk for MS? The true cause of the disease is not yet known, though it is believed that environment, lifestyle, and genetics can all be contributing factors. According to the MS Society of Canada, women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with MS than men, and the disease is more common in people with Northern European ancestry.

Multiple Sclerosis is usually diagnosed when people are between the ages of 15 and 40. That’s why MS can be so debilitating for individuals and families. It most commonly affects people in their professional prime and can sidetrack a promising career or cause turmoil for a young family that does not yet have much stability.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources for Canadians battling the disease. The MS Society of Canada funds research and helps connect Canadians with support services that make life with MS more manageable. Those services range from mental health support groups to mobility assistance to financial counselling, which can be especially important for people who need help navigating and securing the funding available to people with disabilities.

The MS Society also has plenty of information for those who simply want to know more about the disease. Multiple Sclerosis is seldom fatal which means that people with MS can typically expect to live a full, ordinary lifespan. Proper education gives you (or someone you know) a better chance to make those years as active and fulfilling as possible, so don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more about Multiple Sclerosis!

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