Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who Gets Multiple Sclerosis? Part II Living with MS

Anyone may develop MS, but as with many diseases there are some patterns. While there are a host of interesting facts to consider about which type of person typically gets this disease, researchers claim mixture of ethnicity and geography impact on the genetic makeup of an individual, coalescing to make “the perfect storm.”

Age does seem to matter generally with MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. There are, of course, exceptions, but statistically more women than men get MS, almost three times as many, suggesting hormones perhaps play a part in the emergence of MS.

Studies also indicate that genetic factors make certain individuals more susceptible than others, but there is no evidence that MS is directly inherited. In fact studies on identical twins show the same evidence of other familial relationship. About one in four members of the same family have MS. By 1996, as many as 20 locations in DNA that may contain genes contributing to MS were identified, but no single gene was shown to have a major influence on susceptibility to MS. Research will likely find that other, as yet unidentified genes, contribute to MS, reports the National MS Society.

Another striking fact that has emerged from research on MS is that it occurs more commonly among those with northern European heritage, Caucasians living above 40 degrees latitude away from the equator. Interestingly, however, MS is virtually non-existent among populations of Inuit, Norwegian Lapps, Australian Aborigines, for example. That does not mean, however, that people with African, Asian, and Hispanic ancestry are immune to this disease. Approximately 400,000 Americans acknowledge having MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. Worldwide, MS may affect 2.5 million individuals.
Scientists have long been searching for an infectious agent triggering MS. The National MS Society reports that “while many different viruses have been suggested, including rabies, herpes simplex virus, measles, corona virus, canine distemper virus, HTLV-1, Epstein-Barr virus, among others, none has yet been confirmed.” They go on to say that, “chlamydia pneumoniae, a bacterial agent, has also been suggested but never proven.” Although no trigger has yet been identified, most experts on this disease believe that some infectious agent is involved in initiating the disease process. Research continues following these important hypotheses.

We hear stories from people with MS and their families nearly every day. Recently, a customer who has had the disease 25 years found Capabilities and spent a couple of hours shopping for tools to help with everyday things. She told us about her brother who was just diagnosed a couple of years ago, but whose condition has already worsened far more significantly than her own. She is planning for ways to help him stay independent as she shores up her own life.

Tell us your story. Share your ideas about the roots of MS in your family, tips for coping with the disease and tools you use that are helpful for staying mobile and independent. You can send us an email or post your comments below.

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