While multiple sclerosis (MS) is a somewhat common disease, there is still some mystery around it due to rapid developments in the study of the disease. For those who have not had to deal with the day-to-day realities of MS, there can be some misconceptions. If you are the family caregiver for an older adult, it is important to separate the fact from fiction when it comes to multiple sclerosis.
Multiple Sclerosis Statistics
Over 2.3 million people across the globe live with MS. Typically, a person is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis between the ages of 20 and 50, but older adults can be diagnosed, as well.
While MS is found in all ethnic groups, it is more common in Caucasians and women are up to three times more likely to be diagnosed with MS than men. Studies have found that genetics play an important role in who will develop MS and who won’t. Statistics on multiple sclerosis show that in the United States, the average person has a .1% chance of developing multiple sclerosis.
With any disease comes misconceptions. This is doubly true for MS as the science around it is changing so rapidly, it can be difficult to keep up with what is true and what is a myth.
Misconceptions about Multiple Sclerosis
One of the most prevalent misconceptions about MS is that the person diagnosed with it should not engage in physical activity. It was believed, at one time, that physical activity would make the disease worse. This is actually the opposite of the truth. Physical activity will actually help, and those with MS should select some activity that they enjoy and engage in it daily.
Another misconception is that there is nothing those with the disease can do to improve the quality of their lives. Actually, some common sense measures will go a long way to making your loved one’s life a bit easier. This can include losing weight, not smoking, and taking a sufficient amount of vitamin D. In addition, taking their doctor prescribed medications correctly is important.
A third misconception is that someone can catch MS from another person. Actually, there is no evidence that multiple sclerosis is contagious or transmitted in any way.
Multiple Sclerosis Facts
MS is not an inherited disorder, but some studies do show that there can be a predisposition to developing MS. This means if you have a family member such as a sibling or a parent, your risk of developing MS is about 1 to 3%. If you have an identical twin with the disease that risk goes to 30%.
While no one knows for sure what causes multiple sclerosis, studies suggest that there is an environmental factor involved.
Up to 20% of people that have multiple sclerosis will actually have what is known as a benign form of the disease. This means that they will have only mild symptoms and very little progression of the disease over time.
When you have an older loved one, it is important to understand the effects MS can have on them and how to help them live a more comfortable and full life. By understanding some of the multiple sclerosis facts and statistics, you can do just that.
If you or a loved one have had experience with MS please share your experience or family caregiving advice below. We would love to hear from you.