1. The first notable case of multiple sclerosis (MS) was of Augustus d’Este (1794–1848), a cousin of Queen Victoria, as he fully documented his disease but many believe Lidwina of Holland in the 14th century had MS long before him.
Lidwina of Schiedam is the patron saint of ice skating and disease. According to her biography, she may be the first case of MS as the risk factors and symptoms seem to line up. Regardless who was the first possible case, multiple sclerosis was not named or described as it’s own disease until 1868 by Jean-Martin Charcot, a man considered to be the father of neurology who called it sclerose en plaques.
2. Multiple sclerosis is more commonly seen in regions away from the equator. The highest incident rate seems to be in Scotland.
We don’t have a full understanding of what causes MS but for every 10 degrees away from the equator symptoms seem to occur an average of 10 months earlier. It’s been suggested that vitamin D and exposure to sunlight may play a role but it’s not completely clear what that is yet. There are studies that suggest though that they may help with reducing risk and symptoms of MS. Researchers have measured the levels of UVB radiation, which is related to latitude, finding that Mexico has almost 18 times more UVB levels during the winter than Denmark. Patients from the lowest UVB countries seem to develop symptoms two years before those in the highest UVB countries. While light exposure might be a link to MS, there are other environmental and genetic factors that play a role as well.
3. Women are more than twice as likely to have MS than men.
And the numbers might even be as high as four times now. It’s pretty well known that the brains are women and men are hardwired differently but researchers are finding that this goes beyond emotions, logic, and reasoning. Scientists have found that the S1PR2, a protein that controls the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, is more common in those diagnosed with MS and women seem to produce a lot more of it than men. Work is being done to create a ‘tracer’ chemical that will attach to S1PR2 proteins that will show during PET scans.
4. 42% of MS patients were originally misdiagnosed with a different condition.
Multiple sclerosis is a complex disease that can be hard to identify at first glance. Symptoms will present differently in each patient depending on what nerves are being affected even if it’s the same region in the central nervous system (CNS). Fatigue is the most common symptom of MS but others include:
- Numbness and tingling
- Memory loss/brain fog
- Muscle spasms and weakness
- Heat sensitivity
- Bladder Problems
- Mood disorders
- Vision and hearing problems
5. There are 4 types of MS –
- Relapsing-remitting (RRMS) – With about 85% of MS patients being diagnosed with RRMS it is the most common type of MS. Patients go through cycles of remissions and relapses (also called flare-ups or exacerbations) as new symptoms present or old return.
- Primary-progressive (PPMS) – PPMS is not very common with only about 10% of those with MS having it. It is a slow progression of worsening symptoms without any remission or relapse cycles.
- Secondary-progressive (SPMS) – Symptoms worsen over time regardless of any remission or relapse cycles. Many who have RRMS will eventually be diagnosed with SPMS.
- Progressive-relapsing (PRMS) – This is characterized by a continuous decline from the start. There are no remissions but acute relapses, with no guarantee of recovery. Only 5% of MS patients have PRMS.
6. Medicine, screening, and treatment are improving
Like with other conditions, scientific advancements have improved quality of life for many. There are more options compared to even just 10 years ago. Scientists are finding new ways to screen with PET scans as mentioned above and are coming with more ways to help patients. Many of the treatment options are available in pill or infusion form and their ultimate goals are to either slow the damage from MS, minimize flare-up symptoms, or help physical or mental functions. Treatment is a lifelong course and starting as soon as possible helps slow the progression of MS so it’s important to find a medicine that is a good fit. Clinical trials are imperative in learning more about how to help treat the disease. Keeping an active lifestyle and eating properly can also help with reducing symptoms.
2.3 million people around the world are affected by multiple sclerosis and there are communities that are actively seeking ways to better their lives. Living with MS is an increasingly manageable condition with some lifestyle adjustments and a proper course of treatment.