Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects from 250,000 to 350,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million worldwide(1) in 2012. Despite these facts, many people feel that few Black Americans get MS. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society(2) states that African Americans:
- Are more likely to experience more relapses.
- Are more likely to experience greater disability.
- Have a higher risk of progressing to require ambulatory assistance earlier.
- Are more likely to develop involvement of the optic nerves and spinal cord (optic — spinal MS) and inflammation of the spinal cord (transverse myelitis).
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a nervous system disease that affects your brain and spinal cord. It damages the myelin sheath, the material that surrounds and protects your nerve cells. This damage slows down or blocks messages between your brain and your body, leading to the symptoms of MS(3).
An unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis (MS) can range from relatively benign to somewhat disabling to devastating as communication between the brain, and other parts of the body are disrupted. Many investigators believe MS to be an autoimmune disease — one in which the body, through its immune system, launches a defensive attack against its tissues. In the case of MS, it is the nerve-insulating myelin that comes under assault. Such attacks may be linked to an unknown environmental trigger, perhaps a virus.
Most people experience their first symptoms of MS between the ages of 20 and 40; the initial symptom of MS is often blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion, or even blindness in one eye. Most MS patients experience muscle weakness in their extremities and difficulty with coordination and balance. These symptoms may be severe enough to impair walking or even standing. In the worst cases, MS can produce partial or complete paralysis. Most people with MS also exhibit paresthesias, transitory abnormal sensory feelings such as numbness, prickling, or “pins and needles” sensations. Some may also experience pain. Speech impediments, tremors, and dizziness are other frequent complaints. Occasionally, people with MS have hearing loss. Approximately half of all people with MS experience cognitive impairments such as difficulties with concentration, attention, memory, and poor judgment, but such symptoms are usually mild and are frequently overlooked. Depression is another common feature of MS(4).
The types of MS include:
- Relapsing-Remitting, the most common form, in which symptoms appear for short periods, then seem to go away.
- Progressive MS, in which symptoms worsen.
- Secondary-Progressive, which begins with a relapsing-remitting course and is followed by a subsequent primary-progressive course.
Answers will Improve Your Health
Providing accurate health information and asking questions to the doctor and other health care professionals can improve your quality of care. It’s important to build a relationship with a doctor that allows for frank and open discussion about an individual’s health. This conversation can lead to increased patient satisfaction and a better understanding of the health care services being utilized. Unfortunately, many people in the black community mistrust doctors and medical professionals, which contributes to reduced usage of the healthcare system.
Many African-Americans feel that doctors are condescending and that the whole experience is very stressful. Jay Harold’s post, “Talking to Doctor Presents Challenges for African Americans,” addresses this issue in more detail.
Despite the problems found in communicating with your doctor; you play an important role as part of a team effort to receive quality health care. One of the best ways to communicate with your doctor and health care team is by asking questions and preparing some questions in advance because time is limited during medical appointments.
Treatments and Therapies for Multiple Sclerosis
There’s no cure for MS. However; there are Disease-Modifying Drugs that slow the progression of the disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved more than 10 medications(5) for use in relapsing forms of MS. Complementary and Alternative Medicine(6) has also helped some people with Multiple Sclerosis. Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs have also provided some relief for MS patients.
Multiple Sclerosis: 7 Questions to Ask Doctor!
Good communications with your health care provider are critical to making sure you get the best, most accurate information about your health. MedlinePlus has created 7 specific questions to ask about MS:
- Given my symptoms, could I have multiple sclerosis?
- What tests are needed to help diagnose whether or not I have MS?
- Does MS run in families?
- What other diseases might be causing my symptoms, other than MS?
- What stage of MS do I have, and will it get worse or better through treatment?
- Can diet and exercise affect my MS?
- Is there a chance my MS will ever go away?
Today’s complex world of medical information can be overwhelming. This fact should not keep you from obtaining the information you need to live a healthy life. Jay Harold is always looking for ways to improve your health and wealth.
Click this link to get free Health and Wealth information to improve your life. Play the free “Slow Roll Through Civil Rights” Game found on the Jay Harold website. Enjoyed this post? Share it and read more here.