Facts about MS

  • There are 4 types of Multiple Sclerosis:
    • Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)
      • This is the most common form of multiple sclerosis. About 85% of people with MS are initially diagnosed with RRMS. People with RRMS have temporary periods called relapses, flare-ups or exacerbations, when new symptoms appear
    • Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS)
      • In SPMS, symptoms worsen more steadily over time, with or without the occurrence of relapses and remissions. Most people who are diagnosed with RRMS will transition to SPMS at some point
    • Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS)

      • This type of MS is not very common, occurring in about 10% of people with MS. PPMS is characterized by slowly worsening symptoms from the beginning, with no relapses or remissions
    • Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS)
      • A rare form of MS (5%), PRMS is characterized by a steadily worsening disease state from the beginning, with acute relapses but no remissions, with or without recovery
  • Currently affects 400,000 Americans
  • MS is generally diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 50
  • MS is an invisible disease that people can’t see but WE can feel
  • It's also known as a Snowflake disease; Every snowflake is different, much like how MS affects each person differently

specific to african americans

As recently as 15 years ago, many people in the medical community viewed MS as a disease that predominantly affected those of European descent.

But is it just less studied? A 2015 article written by six noted MS researchers and published in Neurology Clinical Practice, reported that out of nearly 60,000 published articles about MS, only 113, or about 0.002 percent, focus on African-Americans.

Studies show:

  • A 2012 study of military personnel published in Military Medicine reported 46 percent more cases of MS in blacks than in non-Hispanic whites.
  • And a 2013 study found that blacks had a 47 percent increased risk of MS compared with whites. The study, which was published in Neurology, also found that among blacks, women had triple the risk of MS compared with men. This mirrors the increased risk of MS among women of northern European ancestry.

A follow-up study found that about 26 percent of blacks have a family history of MS, a rate similar to that of whites.

The myth that black people do not get MS is just that — a myth. With such pervasive evidence of MS in African-Americans, doctors consider it as a potential diagnosis much more readily now.

Different symptoms

There’s some evidence that MS can manifest differently and be especially active in African-Americans:

  • More likely to experience more relapses
  • More likely to experience greater disability
  • Have a greater risk of progressing to require ambulatory assistance earlier
  • More likely to develop involvement of the optic nerves and spinal cord (optic-spinal MS) and inflammation of the spinal cord (transverse myelitis). A 2004 study published in Neurology reported optic-spinal MS occurs in 17 percent of African-Americans compared with 8 percent of Caucasians. And transverse myelitis affects 28 percent of African-Americans with MS compared with 18 percent of Caucasians.

Unlike subtler MS symptoms, mobility and vision issues can spur a person to visit a doctor more quickly. And that may be why the study found that once they get medical attention for their symptoms, African-Americans tend to be diagnosed with MS faster than white people (one year after symptom onset for blacks compared with two years for whites).