Be Aware of MS

Each year, thousands of people across the nation spend a week with their full attention turned to the crippling disease known as multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a disease that involves an immune system attack against the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves). Because the specific target of the immune attack in MS has not yet been identified, MS is referred to as an immune-mediated disease.

Every state chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society treats this awareness week a little differently, mostly because it’s up to the individuals in each chapter to promote awareness. The week is about making people more aware of MS and helping them find out what they can do to help. Many participate and donate to the MS Society’s events like Walk MS or Bike MS, but some also work to educate and build awareness by writing letters to their local papers.

To learn a little more about MS, here are some facts from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website:

>> The farther one lives from the equator, the higher one’s risk of MS. Researchers are exploring whether sunlight exposure is a protective factor, and are looking at many other risk or protective factors for clues to the cause of MS.

>> MS is unpredictable. An individual’s disease progression, severity, specific symptoms, and response to therapies cannot be easily foreseen. But an international team of researchers is taking clues from patterns of MS damage seen in the brain to try to predict the best treatment for any individual.

>> Women are more prone to developing MS, but when men get the disease, it can be more severe.

>> Our brains have stores of cells capable of replacing myelin, the protein-rich insulating layer around the nerves that is attacked by MS.

>> Researchers believe that a person’s genes determine whether they are susceptible to developing MS, yet even identical twins have different risks for the disease, depending on their experiences.

>> MS costs the US economy about $28 billion per year.

>> Deeper understanding of destructive and protective immune factors is opening up new opportunities for turning off the attack or protecting brain tissues. Experimental therapies in the pipeline include some in pill form.

In 2013, MS Awareness Week will be March 11-17. What will you do to show your support? Go to nationalmssociety.com and click on the tab “find a chapter” to see what events are taking place in your area.