MS Quick Facts

Basic Facts


  1. More than 400,000 people in the United States and 2.1 million people worldwide have MS
  2. Approximately 200 people are diagnosed with the disease per week, more than one person every hour
  3. There is no cure for MS yet, but there are now FDA-approved medications that have been shown to modify or slow down the underlying course of MS
  4. Many therapeutic and technological advances are helping people with MS manage their symptoms
  5. Advances in treating and understanding MS are made every year, and progress in research to find a cure is very encouraging
  6. No single laboratory test is available to prove or rule out MS, however Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a great help in reach a definitive diagnosis
  7. MS was first recognized as a disorder in the late nineteenth century
  8. In the 1960’s researchers first began to understand some of the processes that cause symptoms and long-term disability
  9. The first standard guidelines for the diagnosis of MS and a disability rating scale were established in the 1960’s
  10. In the late 60’s, the first controlled clinical trials for MS therapy showed that treatment with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) could speed recovery from an attack
  11. MS is recognized as a chronic, inflammatory and autoimmune disease of the central nervous system
  12. MS is the most common cause of disability affecting young adults
  13. MS is a progressive disease for which there is not a cure yet
  14. Sclerosis is a Greek word meaning hardening of tissue or scars
  15. The first case of MS was diagnosed in 1849
  16. The earliest known case of MS dates back to 14th century Holland
  17. MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease but currently debates continue on this subject
  18. The average time between clinical onset of MS and diagnosis by physicians is 4 – 5 years
  19. In 1936, only 8% of patients were reported to survive beyond 20 years after onset of illness
  20. In 1961, over 80% of MS patients were reported surviving to 20 years after onset of illness
  21. Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne’s son, Jack Osbourne, is an MS patient
  22. Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding is an MS patient
  23. The Dutch Saint Lidwina, who died in 1433, may have been one of the first known MS patients
  24. In the early to mid-1800s, multiple sclerosis was treated with a variety of methods including drinking and bathing in “steel water” and eating beef steaks twice a day
  25. Horseback riding was a treatment for MS in the early to mid-1800s and today equine therapy is still a recommended way to help manage symptoms in some cases
  26. Foods that help boost energy and combat against MS-related fatigue include blueberries, oranges, salmon, almonds, and green tea
  27. Although the numbers are on the rise, that does not mean MS is. Due to the recent use of MRI scanning , MS has just become easier to diagnose.
  28. Botox may help with some people’s bowel and bladder issues associated with MS.
  29. MS is the most common central nervous disease in young adults
  30. Acupuncture may be an effective therapy in improving bladder function in people with MS
  31. Exercise can be an effective way to help manage MS symptoms






Demographic Information


  1. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although people as young as two and as old as 75 have developed it
  2. At least two to three times as many women as men are diagnosed with MS
  3. There are an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 children under the age of 18 who live with MS
  4. MS occurs in most ethnic groups but more commonly among Caucasians of Northern European ancestry
  5. MS is more frequently observed at northern latitudes farther from the equator and less frequently areas closer to the equator
  6. MS is neither contagious nor directly inherited
  7. Studies indicate genetic factors may make certain individuals more susceptible to the disease
  8. The average person has about a 1 in 750 chance of developing MS
  9. Someone with a parent or sibling with MS has about a 1 in 40 chance of developing MS
  10. One study found that people born in May were more likely to develop MS, while people born in November were less likely to develop MS
  11. Those who smoke have a higher risk of developing MS
  12. Multiple studies have suggested that those who get less sunlight are at higher risk of developing MS
  13. People who live in northern areas that get less sunlight are more likely to develop MS
  14. A study found that women who took at least 400 IU’s of vitamin D a day had a significantly lower risk for MS
  15. MS typically skips a generation rather than seeing a gene passed from parent to child
  16. MS is the most common progressive and disabling neurological condition in young adults
  17. Approximately 70,000 people in the UK have MS
  18. Approximately 50,000 people in Canada have MS
  19. Over 10,500 people in Scotland have MS
  20. The average age of clinical onset is 30 – 33 years of age
  21. The average age of diagnosis is 37 years of age
  22. 10% of cases of MS are diagnosed after the age of 50
  23. MS is five times more prevalent in temperate climates than in tropical climates
  24. Native Indians of North and South America, Japanese, and other Asian peoples have a very low incidence rate of MS
  25. The risk of contracting MS if a first-degree relative (father, mother, sibling) has MS is only 1 – 3%
  26. The risk of contracting MS if your father has MS is approximately 1 in 100
  27. The risk of contracting MS if your mother has MS is approximately 1 in 50
  28. Various studies have connected many viruses, such as the Epstein-Barr virus with an increased risk of developing MS but this has not yet been proven
  29. 85% of MS patients are diagnosed in the early stage
  30. Pregnancy may lower a woman’s risk for ever developing MS.
  31. Moving from an area where MS risk is high to an area where it is low at a young age may decrease an individual’s likelihood of developing MS. Moving in old age may decrease risk for the next generation.
  32. Outbreaks or clusters of MS have been identified in some areas but their causes remain unknown






Symptom Information


  1. Symptoms of MS vary greatly from person to person and from time to time in the same person
  2. In MS, symptoms result when inflammation and breakdown occur in myelin, the protective insulation surrounding the nerve fibers of the central nervous system
  3. MS is not a fatal disease, except in rare cases
  4. People with MS may struggle to live a productively as they desire , often facing increasing limitations
  5. The majority of people who live with MS do not become severely disabled
  6. Two-thirds of people with MS remain able to walk, though many will require an aid, such as a cane
  7. In early MS, symptoms that come and go might indicate any number of possible disorders
  8. There are four different types of MS: Relapsing-Remitting, Primary-Progressive, Secondary-Progressive, Progressive-Relapsing
  9. Everyone who has MS experiences it differently
  10. Symptoms come and go and tend to be triggered by stress or an increase in body temperature
  11. Acquiring MS may be connected to levels of Vitamin D
  12. About 50% of people with MS will develop some cognitive problems
  13. Only 10% of people with MS that develop cognitive problems experience symptoms severe enough to interfere with daily activities
  14. MS is usually a “diagnosis of exclusion” because there is no single test available to clearly identify MS
  15. About 85% of those who are newly diagnosed have the Relapsing-Remitting form of MS
  16. MS does not significantly affect lifespan
  17. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS
  18. If left untreated, half of all Relapsing-Remitting individuals develop Secondary-Progressive MS within 10 years
  19. MS attacks the central nervous system rather than the muscles themselves
  20. The exact cause of MS is still unknown though it may be caused by a virus
  21. Some pain experienced in the joints may be indirectly related to MS and be the result of other MS symptoms such as imbalance
  22. Some people with MS may notice changes in their speech such as a nasal sounding voice or a breathless sound along with slurring or changes in volume
  23. MS symptoms typically stabilize improve temporarily during pregnancy
  24. Some people with MS experience “MS lassitude”, a severe fatigue which people describe as “unlike anything they’ve ever felt
  25. People with MS may experience an “MS hug”, or dysesthesias ,which is a non-muscular sensory phenomenon which feels like they are being tightly grabbed around the midsection
  26. 25 to 60% of MS patients report experiencing tremors which can include a single limb, the head, torso, or even the vocal cords
  27. An itching sensation known as dysesthetic itching is sometimes seen in people with MS. There is no physical cause for it as it is caused by damaged nerves
  28. Only about 5 to 6% of people with MS will experience hearing loss due to the disease affecting the auditory nerve
  29. Eye pain, called optic neuritis, is often the first symptom people with MS experience
  30. Trouble swallowing, called dysphagia, is a more uncommon symptom of MS
  31. Some MS patients experience acute pain, such as stabbing facial pain, called trigeminal neuralgia
  32. Only 2 to 5% of people diagnosed with MS have a history of symptom onset before the age of 18
  33. Seizures are a symptom that is seen in children diagnosed with MS but not typically adults
  34. Common pain symptoms include headache, back pain, continuous burning in the extremities, and painful tonic spasms
  35. MS pain is usually described as musculoskeletal, paroxysmal, or chronic neurogenic
  36. Epileptic seizures are three to six more common in those with MS than those without MS
  37. MS related seizures are most likely caused by lesions in the cerebral cortex and the white matter around the area