Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month
HOME · Mind & Body
date

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month: Better Awareness for Change

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, a momentous annual occasion bringing to light the disease affecting millions worldwide. It deepens our collective understanding of the impact of the disease on patients and their families to foster empathy and support for those living with MS. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: March - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

dizziness because of multiple sclerosis
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society started this campaign in 2003 to raise public awareness about the multifaceted disease and its effects. Its purpose is to support those battling multiple sclerosis, their loved ones, and the dedicated researchers who are striving to find a cure.

Over the years, the significance of this awareness month has increased, and it has now become a global movement with events happening worldwide, from educational seminars to marathons. 

In 2009, the U.S. Senate officially declared March as National Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month following a resolution by Senator Barbara Mikulski. 

Celebrities and public figures have also joined the cause, using their fame to spread the word further. For example, talk show host Montel Williams has become a leading advocate since his diagnosis in 1999. 

Within the month, the National MS Society also hosts MS Awareness Week.

Related Read: National Diabetes Month, Psoriasis Awareness Month.

The Cause and Its Challenges

back pain
Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) triggers the immune system to attack nerve fibers' protective covering, known as myelin, affecting the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. MS affects1 over 2.8 million people worldwide and nearly a million in the United States alone.

Despite ongoing studies, the exact cause of MS remains a mystery, and factors such as viral infections, vitamin D deficiency, and smoking are still under investigation.

Individuals with MS experience a range of physical symptoms, including fatigue, difficulty walking, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and coordination issues. Additionally, symptoms can vary depending on whether the disease affects the brain or spinal cord. 

The disease also affects mental and emotional health, as its unpredictable nature can cause stress, anxiety, and depression.

Moreover, the financial burden of the disease is high. This disease carries an average cost of $65,612 per patient annually in the United States, including medical and prescription expenses and lost productivity.

Understanding Multiple Sclerosis

The cause of MS is not yet fully understood, although it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. Although MS does not follow a straightforward genetic inheritance pattern, having a family member with MS increases the risk of developing the disease. 

Geographical location also plays a role, with countries with temperate climates reporting higher incidences of MS.

The Epstein-Barr virus, responsible for mononucleosis, has been linked to the onset of MS. However, the exact relationship between viruses and the disease has yet to be fully understood.

One of the most challenging aspects of MS is its unpredictable nature, with some patients experiencing mobility issues. Although a cure for MS is yet to be discovered, current treatments can help manage symptoms and slow disease progression. Unfortunately, some people live with relapsing-remitting MS. 

Efforts and Initiatives

Photo by Guilhem Vellut on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

Organizations, governments, and communities are the key players in this fight. 

For instance, the World Health Organization's Neurology and Public Health initiative is a game-changer. It is helping to improve the quality of life for people who are struggling with neurological disorders, including MS, by implementing comprehensive, evidence-based healthcare and support strategies. 

Additionally, the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) is the leading organization promoting awareness of MS globally. Their annual event, World MS Day, on May 30th, brings together the international MS community to share stories, raise awareness, and advocate for improved services and effective treatments. 

The MSIF has also launched the Atlas of MS, the most comprehensive study of MS epidemiology worldwide. This initiative provides a wealth of data on resources for people with MS, influencing policies and healthcare strategies globally.

How to Get Involved and Support Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

Whether you or someone you know got diagnosed with this disease, visit the National MS Society’s website to educate yourself about it.

Join events of NMSS or your local multiple sclerosis foundation. You can also join virtual events, sponsor a participant, or donate directly.

Moreover, you can use your online presence to educate your network about multiple sclerosis.

Use orange ribbons and orange butterflies, vibrant symbols of MS awareness, to show your support for the cause.

Lastly, volunteer at local MS organizations, like MS Focus and health clinics, if you can. Every small act counts, whether you're taking calls, organizing a charity event, or offering support to patients. 

Conclusion

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month aims to raise awareness about the disease affecting millions worldwide. This month-long spotlight serves as a means of education and unification, bringing together communities and enlightening those with limited knowledge about the condition.

Whether you know someone with this disease or not, be part of the solution by showing support not only to those who have MS but also to the people surrounding them.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

If one suffers from MS, the immune system attacks the central nervous system, causing communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body.

2. What are the common symptoms of MS?

Common MS symptoms include fatigue, difficulty walking, numbness or tingling in the limbs, muscle weakness, problems with coordination and balance, and cognitive impairments.

3. How is MS diagnosed?

Diagnosis typically comes after a combination of medical history review, neurological examination, MRI scans, and other tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

4. Is there a cure?

Currently, there is no cure. Still, there are various treatment options available to manage symptoms, slow down the progression of the disease, and improve the quality of life for individuals living with MS.

5. How can I support MS Awareness Month?

You can join awareness events, donate to MS research organizations, volunteer at local MS support groups, share educational resources on social media, and show support to individuals living with MS.

1

Walton, C., King, R., Rechtman, L., Kaye, W., Leray, E., Marrie, R. A., Robertson, N., La Rocca, N., Uitdehaag, B. M. J., Van Der Mei, I., Wallin, M. T., Helme, A., Napier, C. A., Rijke, N., & Baneke, P. (2020). Rising prevalence of multiple sclerosis worldwide: Insights from the Atlas of MS, third edition. Multiple Sclerosis Journal, 26(14), 1816–1821.

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo Credit: National Multiple Sclerosis Center.
Pin Me:
Pin Image Portrait Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month: Better Awareness for Change
Sign Up for Updates
SIGN UP