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MS Statistics

Source: 2014 HealthLine Networks

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Quick Facts about MS
What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive and unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts communication between the brain and other parts of the body. The severity of the disease and its symptoms vary from person to person. While the cause of MS is unknown and although there are treatments that can slow disease progression, there is no known cure at this time.

MS is most commonly diagnosed in young adults with 2.5 million people affected worldwide. Over 400,000 Americans have MS and another 200 are diagnosed every week. 80% of MS patients develop MS between the ages of 16 and 45. Women are more frequently diagnosed with MS by at least 2 to 1. MS is the leading cause of disability in young women and the second leading cause of disability in young men.

The nerve fibers in the central nervous system are protected and made more effective by a fatty substance, myelin, which helps the nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain. MS produces injury in the central nervous system when the immune system mistakenly attacks myelin. Areas of myelin damage are known as plaques, or lesions, and these eventually fill in with scar tissue. The name multiple sclerosis means “many scars.” MS can also cause destruction of the entire nerve.

The damage from lesions disrupts the transmission of nerve impulses from the central nervous system to the rest of the body causing a variety of symptoms. Common symptoms include visual changes, muscle weakness, problems with balance, fatigue, numbness, and emotional and cognitive changes, but there are many others. MS has periods when the disease is quite active known as exacerbations. During exacerbations symptoms can be more pronounced, but usually subside and sometimes go away after an exacerbation.

MS has a significant emotional and physical impact on the quality of life of those who have it as well as their families. Seventy percent of people living with MS have a level of impairment from the disease that interferes with at least one essential daily task. After 10 years of disease, 70% of people with MS will not be working outside the home. After 15 years, 50% will require at least a cane to walk. 30% will eventually need to use a wheelchair.

Because individuals are diagnosed and become symptomatic during their most productive years, the financial cost for the individual and for society can be staggering. Direct costs are high. The medications used to treat MS cost between $20,000 and $30,000 per year and the cost for treatment of a disease flare-up is estimated at $12,870. MS also has high indirect costs— from lost wages to under or unemployment. The direct and indirect costs of MS are now estimated at $57,500 per patient per year. The total lifetime costs associated with MS for an individual is estimated at $2.2 million.