Answers to some key questions about Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis or MS as it is commonly called is a horrible sounding condition that appears to become more common. There are many reasons for this, including better diagnostics and worse lifestyles, but the reality is that before long most people living in urban Western cultures will probably have encountered somebody who has the condition. In fact, such is the rising awareness of MS that in the Hollywood series The West Wing, the condition was even written into the script with the President of the United States, the man who fictionally suffered from MS. But what is it, where does it come from and what does it mean if you have it? These are all important questions, and we have the answers for you.

Does it kill?

MS is not a fatal condition although in severe cases people might find that they are compromised by some of the symptoms of the condition like swallowing difficulties, balance issues or infections in the bladder or chest. It is not going to kill you, but it is worth noting that for people living with MS, life expectancy is around five years less than it is for other people. That is bad news. The good news is that due to medical advances and a better understanding of the condition, that gap is increasingly being decreased.

Can you catch it? / How do you get it?

Very little is known about how people get Multiple Sclerosis, but what is definite is that it is not transmitted from an infected person to a healthy person. In other words, you cannot get MS from being with a sufferer. What is known about MS is that it is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks itself. In this instance it is the fatty sheath that surrounds the nerves that is attacked, and which deteriorates.

Is it stress-related?

Once a person has MS it is never really cured. There are only good periods or remissions and bad periods, which are often described as flare-ups. Stress does not lead a person to have MS, but for a person living with MS, stress can easily cause flare-ups to happen. The key for people living with the condition is to manage their stress and to try and live as healthy a lifestyle as possible.

How common is it?

Chances are if you could travel back in time and ask your grandparents, or their parents, if they knew anyone who had MS, they would look at you blankly and say that they had never even heard of it. It would be unlikely that they knew anyone who had suffered from the condition. It is much more common now – or at least people are more aware of it now and it is more frequently diagnosed. Statistics suggest that approximately two and a half million people globally suffer from the condition. Interestingly it is far more common in women than in men with there being around three females with the condition for every male who is diagnosed.