Each year on May 30, the multiple sclerosis (MS) community—patients, caretakers, clinical teams—unites in a global effort to raise awareness of the chronic neurological disease through World MS Day.
Currently, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, more than 2.3 million individuals have an MS diagnosis and more women than men develop the disease.
World Multiple Sclerosis Day 2021: Theme
The 2020-2022 World MS Day theme is ‘connections’. MS Connections is all about building community connection, self-connection and connections to quality care. We are challenging social barriers that leave people affected by MS feeling lonely and socially isolated. Together, we advocate for better services, celebrate support networks and champion self-care. Change the future, find your #MSConnections.
What is Multiple Sclerosis and why this day?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the nervous system by an immune mediate damage to the nerve sheath covering (myelin) thus disabling the person. Though, an uncommon disease, it causes severe disability in the younger population. This day has been initiated in 2009 to increase the awareness and connect people affected.
What are the symptoms of MS?
As mentioned, it affects the younger generation, ladies are more commonly affected than men. Problems with vision, speech, balance and mobility are the common symptoms. These symptoms may be transient initially thus delaying medical attention. Later stages, it may affect the intelligence and sphincter control and a minority may become bedridden.
What are the national and global figures?
Worldwide data shows around 2.8 million affected with MS, majority in the US and Europe. Thought to be a disease exclusive to the West and colder climates, the prevalence is on the rise even in India.
Diagnostic methods for MS
Younger people with transient symptoms should seek medical attention. Eye specialists and neurologists usually see them for the fist visit and will ask for an MRI of the brain, eyes and the spinal cord. The typical MRI changes usually yield the diagnosis, special blood tests and withdrawal of fluid form the back (Lumbar puncture) may also be performed. Electrophysiological testing (VEP, SSEP, BERA) is also ordered.
Treatment options for MS
Treatment includes a combination of medicines and physical therapy. A lot of advances have taken place on the treatment front and many are still in progress. These usually modulate the hyperactive immune system in a favorable way. The cost of treatment goes high and that is where the support groups can help. In India, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India (MSSI) is helping people affected with MS in every aspect of the disease care.
MS and the COVID 19 pandemic
Most of the MS individuals are on medicines altering the immune system. Thus, they should be in close touch with their treating Neurologist so as to prevent Covid and see to it that their disease does not worsen. Also, appropriate advice should be sought so as to not delay vaccination for COVID 19. As far as possible, they should avoid travel and continue physical therapy and exercise at home to keep themselves fit and fine.