MS Awareness Month begins on March 1, just three days away, so it is just the right time to look at how many of us are living with the disease.
During March, we will take part in, support, and have fun enjoying various events in countless countries. And, in doing so we will be not only be shining a spotlight on MS but also raising much needed money for the cause.
The worldwide figure for those with MS is, regretfully, seven years old. For this reason, we only have an estimated figure of 2.5 million.
In 2013, the number of people with MS had increased from 2.1 million in 2008 to 2.3 million, according to the MS International Federation’s Atlas MS. On this basis, I believe the 2.5million figure may be understated – but let’s live with that for now.
A study, supported by the NMSS (National MS Society), shows that nearly one million adults have MS in the United States, more than double that previously thought.
Reacting to the study’s publication in Neurology, NMSS president and CEO Cyndi Zagieboylo said: “This study tells us many things, but one thing in particular — twice as many people need a cure.
Need more money for research
“We must do more. We need to raise more money to fund more research; we need to fund the programs and services that help people with MS live their best lives; and we need to make sure the voices of people living with MS are heard and their rights to have quality, affordable health care are protected.”
Across the Atlantic, the total estimated overall prevalence rate is 83 per 100,000. This means that out of a population of 741.4 million, those with a confirmed diagnosis in Europe amount to more than 615,000.
These figures, from the NCBI (the US’s National Center for Biotechnology Information) are pre-Brexit, so they include the UK.
Turning to the UK itself, the one of two leading disease specific campaigning charities, the MS Society, estimates there more than 130,000 with MS in the country.
The website of the other top charity, the MS Trust, explains: “In 2020, Public Health England released new MS prevalence data. This revealed that the number of adults with MS in the UK has risen to 131,720.”
Don’t forget to have fun
It goes on to say that, based on the figure of 130,000 people with MS, it is estimated that the number of people with MS in each nation is: England around 105,450 (190 per 100,000); Wales about 5,600 (179); Northern Ireland about 4,830 (258); and Scotland about 15,750 (290).
And emphasising the importance of using March to raise public awareness, it adds: “A little over 6,700 people are diagnosed with MS each year, roughly 130 a week.”
Regular readers will know that I moved from the UK to Spain four years ago. Although English by birth, the 23 years prior to the move had been spent in Wales – with the lowest prevalence level in the UK.
So, how does Spain compare? Well, there are around 42,900 people living with MS here. And that is a prevalence of 102 per 100,000, significantly lower than 179 in Wales. Just goes to show how sunny weather, and an increased level of natural vitamin D, has a beneficial effect on the occurrence of MS.
Whatever you are doing in March, I urge you all to do all you can possibly do to take an active part in MS Awareness events and activities where you live. Most important of all, don’t forget to have fun!
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.
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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.