Multiple Sclerosis Society

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Early diagnosis critical for treating multiple sclerosis

The disease can be especially aggressive in Blacks 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


A person living in the U.S. is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) every hour, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, affecting more than 400,000 people — over 2.1 million people worldwide. Medical studies have shown that MS is two to three times more common in women than in men and affects Blacks and Whites differently. “Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disease. It is when the immune system turns on the body and fights the body,” explains Dr. Jonathan Calkwood, director of the Schapiro Center for Multiple Sclerosis at the Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology in Golden Valley.  “This is a very challenging disease to treat because it has lots of different symptoms that it can cause, but primarily it affects the brain, the optic nerve and the spinal cord,” which impact vision, speech, memory and other bodily functions,

Studies also show that MS can be very aggressive in Blacks — oftentimes because Blacks are more likely to be diagnosed later, and they often develop severe disabilities and experience more relapses as a result.

Calkwood adds that young Black males “have the greatest risk of multiple sclerosis — their MS often is more aggressive and may not respond to treatment. We don’t understand why African Americans can have a more aggressive course of the disease — it’s a mystery.”

MS can come in many forms, notes Calkwood. Continue Reading →

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