Earlier this week, we began a closer look at multiple sclerosis, a debilitating neurological disorder that affects approximately 300,000 people in the United States. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has declared this week Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week to spread information and raise awareness about this devastating disability throughout the country.

It is believed that there are approximately 200 cases of multiple sclerosis diagnosed every week, with the disease primarily affecting people between the ages of 15 and 60. Women tend to be diagnosed with the disease almost twice as much as men. Beyond these general statistics, however, there is relatively little known about the disorder, its causes or how to prevent it. Scientists have categorized common MS symptoms into one of three types of the disease, which can be helpful in treating the disorder or determining a prognosis.

The least severe and most common type of MS is called relapsing-remitting MS. People with this form experience attacks (also known as relapses, flare-ups or exacerbations) during which neurological function significantly worsens. These attacks are followed by periods of partial or total recovery, known as remissions.

Secondary-progressive MS is more severe, and often follows an initial diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS. During this stage of the disease, neurological function will worsen, and there are usually fewer or shorter recovery or remission stages.

The third type is progressive-relapsing MS, during which the disease will progress, and neurological function will worsen, without any remission periods. This is the rarest form of the disease.

It is apparent that there is a significant amount of variance within these three types, and as such, MS will affect everyone afflicted with it differently. It is believed that with an increased awareness, scientists will have the means to continue their research into the disease and its hopeful cure.

Source: Medical News Today, “Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week, What Does It Mean To You? “, Sy Kraft, 14 March 2011