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Jun 06, 2023, 4:05 am UTC

1 min

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What is multiple sclerosis?

There are nearly 1 million people in the United States living with multiple sclerosis (MS), most of whom are female. MS symptoms generally begin between the ages of 20 and 40 years, making it the most common disabling neurological disease of young adults.

In recent years, actresses Selma Blair and Christina Applegate have been outspoken about their MS diagnoses. Though they have been candid about some of the invisible symptoms of the disease — blurred vision, fatigue, brain fog, and depression, the motor symptoms of MS still dominate public discourse about the disease. And rightly so: Blair often uses a cane to steady her gait, and her brief participation in "Dancing with the Stars" emphasized the physical limits imposed by the disease.

Currently, there is no cure for MS, however, researchers are making progress in understanding the causes and identifying disease-modifying treatments. For example, large-scale studies have recently linked the disease to infection with a common virus. And while some MS drugs can help slow the disease's progress and the frequency of relapses, others are being developed to promote the repair of myelin, the protective coating around nerve cells that is mistakenly targeted by the immune system.  

As researchers continue to pursue new treatments, they are also targeting MS's cognitive and mental health effects and trying to understand the pronounced sex differences in MS.

Infographic References

  1. About MS. MS Canada. (Accessed June 1, 2023)
  2. The Gender Divide: Differences Between Men and Women With MS. (Accessed June 1, 2023)
  3. Ross L, Ng HS, O'Mahony J, Amato MP, Cohen JA, Harnegie MP, Hellwig K, Tintore M, Vukusic S, Marrie RA. Women's Health in Multiple Sclerosis: A Scoping Review. Front Neurol. 2022 Jan 31;12:812147. 

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