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Multiple Sclerosis is still a somewhat under-discussed disease in South Africa but this MS Awareness Month, that is going to change! This is what MS is and how South Africans are working together to find support and the best treatment.


South Africa (01 May 2023) – The month of May is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month. The disease is still underrepresented in South Africa but that is about to change! Multiple Sclerosis South Africa is raising the profile of the disease, offering support for families and raising funds to help make a difference. Their goal is to unite Africa and create a federation for the continent that will empower thousands of sufferers.

Speaking to the team at MS South Africa, we got to learn more about the disease and how it is being managed in South Africa. They have shared some in-depth information about MS but if you have any questions, you can reach out directly here.

What is Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. It interrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body. Symptoms can range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis.

Every case is proving unique and the progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted but advances in research and treatment is moving closer to a world free of MS.

Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system. Today over 2,500,000 people around the world have MS.

What are the typical symptoms of MS?

The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted. The disease varies greatly from person to person, and from time to time, in the same person. For instance, one person might experience abnormal fatigue, another might have severe vision problems, and another could develop attention and memory issues. Even severe symptoms could disappear completely and the person could regain lost functions. In the worst cases, however, people can have partial or complete paralysis.

What causes these symptoms?

In MS, symptoms result when inflammation and breakdown occur in myelin, the protective insulation surrounding the nerve fibres of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The nerve fibres themselves are also damaged. Myelin is destroyed and replaced by scars of hardened “sclerotic” patches of tissue. Such lesions are called “plaques,” and appear in “multiple” places within the central nervous system. This can be compared to a loss of insulating material around an electrical wire, which interferes with the transmission of signals.

Lifespan and MS Myths

Is MS fatal?

Life expectancy for people with MS has increased over time. We believe this is due to treatment breakthroughs, improved healthcare and lifestyle changes. Recent research, however, indicates that people with MS may live an average of about seven years less than the general population because of disease complications or other medical conditions. Many of these complications are preventable or manageable. Attention to overall health and wellness can help reduce the risk of other medical conditions, such as heart disease and stroke, that can contribute to a shortened life expectancy. In some rare instances, there are cases of MS that progress rapidly from disease onset and can be fatal.

Does MS always cause paralysis?

No. The majority of people living with MS do not become severely disabled. Two-thirds of people who have MS remain able to walk, though many will need an aid, such as a cane or crutches.

Is MS contagious?

No. MS is neither contagious nor directly inherited, although studies indicate that genetic factors might make certain individuals more susceptible to the disease.

Diagnosis and Treatment

In early MS, elusive symptoms that come and go might indicate any number of possible disorders. Some people have symptoms that are very difficult for physicians to interpret, and these people must “wait and see.” While no single laboratory test is yet available to prove or rule out MS, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a great help in reaching a definitive diagnosis.

As for treatment, the varies from person to person but by connecting with community and support groups, information sharing is a helpful way to navigate the sometimes stressful task of pinning down the right treatments.

Over the course of the next month, we will be meeting some of the people that are part of the MS community in South Africa. They are sharing their stories to help raise awareness about the disease and to show how they live with it.

If you would like to support the organisation, you can do so via the GivenGain fund here. You can find out more via the Website here and Facebook here. There is also a private support group that can be joined, you need only reach out to the team for more information.

Sources: MS South Africa – Supplied
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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