Multiple Sclerosis, also known as MS, is an immune disease that affects the nervous system. A person is affected when their immune system attacks the protective layer around the sensitive nerve fibres, resulting in inflammation and scar tissue. This damage to the nerves makes it difficult for the brain to send signals to the rest of the body. From this, MS affects movement, balance, memory, and speech.
In Australia, MS affects more than 25,000 people, with more than 10 people each week receiving a diagnosis. Almost three quarters of people with MS are women, and it is the leading cause of disability amongst young adults.
Three of the most commonly seen early symptoms of MS are:
- Numbness and tingling that affects the arms, legs, or one side of your face, similar to the pins-and-needles feeling you get when your foot falls asleep. However, they occur for no apparent reason.
- Uneven balance and weak legs, including tripping easily while walking or doing some other type of physical activity.
- Double vision, blurry vision in one eye, or partial vision loss. These can be an early indicator of MS. You may also have some eye pain.
It should be noted that these symptoms do not mean you have MS. They symptoms may appear once then not flare up again for a number of months or even years.
World Multiple Sclerosis Day is on May 30, and the universal theme for 2020-2022 is ‘Connections.’ There are many anecdotes of people with MS feeling a distinct disconnect with their families, friends and communities, as it can be such an isolating disease. World Multiple Sclerosis Day facilitates awareness and starts conversations between people with MS and the wider community. Opening up the dialogue about what it’s like to have MS, and how it makes a person feel within their community is an important part in helping non-sufferers understand this complex and often misunderstood disease.
The ambition of the ‘Connections’ campaign is to foster a great connection between people with MS and their local community, connect to the best quality care so that they can live a fulfilling and meaningful life, and most importantly, to self-connect, and create an understanding of what a person with MS can do, as opposed to their limitations.
MS isn’t a genetic condition, however people who are related to someone with the condition are more likely to develop it during their lifetime. Our genes make up half of the risk of developing MS, with lifetime exposure to environmental factors making up the other half.
One way to discover your predisposition is to undertake EasyDNA Australia’s Genetic Predisposition Test, to discover whether or not you have a genetic tendency to developing MS.
The test is as simple as getting a blood draw, from which your unique DNA is extracted and analysed. When you receive your results, they will reveal your genetic predisposition to a number of conditions. The test screens for a predisposition to MS, as well as 33 other conditions, including hereditary cancers, age associated conditions, immune disorders, cardiovascular issues and a number of cancer varieties.
If you know someone whose life is affected by MS, be open and available to them.
MS Australia is asking people to “reach out to someone you know living with MS. Tell those you love that you are there for them. Invite them out for a coffee and check in on how they are going.”
Even the smallest of gestures could mean the world.