Many have poor understanding of MS

Almost one-third cannot name any symptoms
  • Deborah Condon

While most people say they are aware of the neurological condition, multiple sclerosis (MS), almost one-third cannot name a single symptom, new research has found.

MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system, which causes a gradual degeneration of the nerves. This results in a progressive deterioration in various functions controlled by the nervous system, such as vision, speech and movement.

It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 and is the most common debilitating neurological condition affecting young adults in Ireland. Around 9,000 people are affected here.

According to the findings, which were commissioned by MS Ireland and Novartis, 93% of people claim to be aware of MS, however 44% admit that their understanding of the condition is poor, while around 30% cannot name a single symptom.

The research noted that 66% of people believe they have a good understanding of MS, however many were unfamiliar with some key facts. For example, 45% of people think MS affects men and women equally, when it is actually two-to-three times more common in women.

MS Ireland emphasised that while some symptoms of the condition are immediately obvious, such as reduced mobility, there are many ‘invisible' symptoms that can be difficult to explain to others, such as memory problems, concentration problems and fatigue.

In fact, the research found that just 8% of people knew that fatigue was a key symptom, despite the fact that 90% of people living with MS experience it

These issues are being highlighted ahead of World MS Day (May 30) and as part of the ‘My Invisible MS' campaign, which is a worldwide campaign that aims to make the public more aware of symptoms.

"While many people are aware of MS and the more visible, tangible symptoms that it can cause, the effects can vary greatly from person to person and can often be invisible to those around them. Through this market research and our World MS Day activity we hope to raise awareness around the less visible aspects of MS and how it can impact on the day-to-day life of a person living with the condition," said MS Ireland CEO, Ava Battles.

Commenting on the research fndings, consultant neurologist and HSE national clinical lead for neurology, Prof Orla Hardiman, emphasised the importance of communities educating themselves on the symptoms of MS, ‘especially those that are not immediately apparent and are less visible'.

As part of World MS Day, the MS Care Centre, which is the Dublin-based national respite and therapy centre for people living with MS, will hold its annual World MS Day coffee morning from 10am on May 30. On that day, the centre will be cutting the ribbon on a new fully adapted minibus, which was donated by supporters.

Meanwhile, MS Ireland branches around the country will hold World MS Day events locally and as part of the Kiss Goodbye to MS campaign, MS Ireland is encouraging people to take part in its ‘9,000 Steps for MS' event, which represents the 9,000 people in Ireland living with the condition.

For more information on MS Ireland, includig the 9,000 Steps events , click here.


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