MS Awareness Week: What you need to know
This week is MS Awareness Week, and the Multiple Sclerosis Trust are celebrating specialist MS nurses and the work they do, as well as making it a priority that everyone living with MS has access to a specialist nurse.
What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis, often abbreviated to MS, is a neurological condition that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system). ‘Sclerosis’ means scarring or hardening of tiny patches of tissue. ‘Multiple’ is added because this happens at more than one place in the brain and/or spinal cord. The damage to nerves seems to be due to the immune system mistakenly attacking the nerve coating which is made of a fatty protein called myelin.
MS is a lifelong condition. It is rarely fatal and most people with MS live about as long as everyone else. It is not infectious or contagious so it can’t be passed on to other people.
MS is the most common condition of the central nervous system affecting young adults. Over 100,000 people in the UK have MS which is about one in every 600. It is nearly three times more common in women than in men. Most people are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s but it can be diagnosed in younger and older people.
There is a wide range of possible symptoms but most people experience only a small number around the time of diagnosis and won’t go on to experience them all. The symptoms vary from one person to another and from day to day. This makes MS rather unpredictable.
Some of the most common symptoms around the time of diagnosis are fatigue (a kind of exhaustion which is out of all proportion to the task undertaken), stumbling more than before, unusual feelings in the skin (such as pins and needles or numbness), slowed thinking or problems with eyesight. All these symptoms can be symptoms of other conditions so it is important to see a health professional to get the correct diagnosis.
How does an MS nurse help?
They can offer support, advice, and explanations, and that’s just the start. Take a look at some of the stories from around the country on the Multiple Sclerosis Trust map.
What can I do now?
Check out the Multiple Sclerosis Trust website and help them spread the word. That could mean putting up a poster, sharing on social media or writing to your local paper.
If you’re a person who has MS and struggles to read print in the usual way get in contact with Listening Books for access to our audiobook library.
This post was edited by Holly Newson. Text about ‘What is Multiple Sclerosis’ comes from the Multiple Sclerosis Trust website.