March Awareness Month: Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

March Awareness Month: Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

March is National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, a time to increase public awareness of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a serious and unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that can be disabling. It hampers the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Despite extensive research, the exact cause of MS remains unclear, and a cure continues to elude the medical community. However, ongoing research efforts are making strides in understanding MS, improving the management of its symptoms and the quality of life for those affected by this formidable condition. 

Signs and Symptoms of MS 

MS presents with a wide array of potential symptoms that may significantly impact an individual’s daily life. These symptoms can be highly variable, not only across individuals but also within the same person over time. For healthcare providers and those structuring benefits and healthcare plans, it is essential to deeply understand these symptoms to provide the necessary adjustments and support for those grappling with MS’s challenges. 


Most individuals with MS will experience a profound fatigue that is not proportional to their level of activity and does not necessarily improve with rest. This fatigue profoundly affects daily functioning and is often cited as one of the most debilitating symptoms to manage. 

Numbness or Tingling 

Numbness or unusual sensations, known as paresthesia, are frequently reported in various body parts, particularly the limbs. These sensations can range from mild annoyances to severe disruptions that can significantly interfere with fine motor skills and everyday tasks. 


Muscle weakness in MS can result from inadequate nerve stimulation, leading to mobility and balance implications that can be particularly acute during periods of increased body temperature. 

Dizziness or Vertigo 

Many individuals experience a disorienting dizziness or vertigo, further contributing to the challenges of maintaining balance and carrying out daily activities. 


Pain in MS can be unpredictable and often requires careful management as part of a comprehensive care plan. Types of pain can include sharp pains, burning sensations, or muscle spasms. 

Emotional Changes 

MS’s effects stretch beyond physical symptoms, with mood swings, depression, and anxiety commonly affecting those living with this condition. This emotional toll may be attributed to the direct neurological changes caused by MS or the stress of coping with a chronic illness. 

Problems with Walking and Coordination 

Gait and coordination difficulties are common in MS due to muscle spasticity, weakness, and balance issues. This can hinder an individual’s ability to walk or may even lead to partial or complete loss of mobility. 

The challenges posed by MS are often exacerbated by increased body temperature, known as Uhthoff’s sign. It is vital for healthcare professionals to acknowledge the complex and individual nature of these symptoms to facilitate comprehensive, tailored care. 

Debunking Common Myths about Multiple Sclerosis 

Myth: MS is a terminal illness. 

Truth: While MS can severely affect one’s quality of life, it is typically not considered a terminal condition. Many individuals with MS have a near-normal lifespan, although the disease can lead to various complications. 

Myth: MS only affects the elderly. 

Truth: MS can be diagnosed at any age but is more commonly identified in individuals between 20 and 50 years old. 

Myth: MS is contagious or directly inherited. 

Truth: MS is neither contagious nor directly inherited. Although there is a genetic predisposition, having a relative with MS does not guarantee that it will be passed on. 

Myth: People with MS can’t work. 

Truth: A great many individuals with MS manage to work and lead productive lives. While some require accommodations, symptoms can often be managed to allow for continued employment. 

Myth: MS progresses the same way for everyone. 

Truth: The course of MS can vary greatly, with some individuals experiencing mild symptoms while others may be confronted with rapid progression and significant disability. 

Symptom Management and Disease Progression 

The objective of symptom management in MS is to alleviate the diverse consequences of the disease and to enhance the quality of life. This may include physical therapy or pharmaceuticals to manage specific symptoms or broader aspects such as disease progression. 

Physical Therapy 

Physical therapy plays a fundamental role in MS treatment by catering to mobility and muscle strength challenges. Tailored exercise programs can address balance, spasticity, and coordination impairments, and include training in the use of mobility aids. 

Medication for Symptomatic Control 

Several medications are utilized to directly target and manage specific MS symptoms. For example, fatigue may be addressed with stimulants whereas muscle spasticity might be treated with muscle relaxants. Other symptoms that can be medicinally managed include bladder issues, bowel dysfunction, and neuropathic pain. 

Relapse and Disease Progression Management 

Disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) are intended to lower the frequency and severity of relapses, and to slow the progression of the disease. Not everyone experiences the same benefits, and the exact response to such treatments is unpredictable. 

Diverse Range of DMTs 

With a growing range of DMTs available, treatment plans can be specifically tailored to the patient’s disease course and individual circumstances. Options include: 

  • Oral Medications: These are sometimes preferred by many patients due to convenience. 
  • Injectable Drugs: Administered as shots either in the muscle or just under the skin, these may be preferred as they can be self-administered and may only have to be administered once weekly. 
  • Infusions: Infusions are given intravenously at set intervals and can require one to four hours to administer. 

Routine Monitoring 

Because MS is a disease marked by its unpredictability, routine monitoring is an integral part of managing the condition. Monitoring helps to gauge the effectiveness of treatments, understand the progression of the disease, and adapt care plans accordingly. 

Emotional and Mental Health Support 

Support for the psychological aspects of living with MS is also crucial. This can include counseling services, stress management strategies, and support groups. 

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) 

Some patients may find relief from symptoms through approaches like yoga, acupuncture, and dietary modifications. While not always scientifically proven, these alternatives can provide a complementary strategy for symptom management by enhancing overall well-being. 

Access to a coordinated care team comprising neurologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, pharmacists, and counselors can be highly beneficial. Collaborative care fosters an environment where every aspect of the patient’s well-being is addressed, and decisions are made with a consensus among the multidisciplinary team and the patient. 

The Reality of Living with MS: Stats and Facts 

Global Impact 

The statistic that over 2.3 million individuals are living with MS worldwide puts into perspective the widespread nature of the disease. It highlights the importance of global collaboration in research, resource allocation, and the sharing of best practices for the management and support of MS. 

Age and Gender 

MS is typically diagnosed in individuals aged 20-50, a range that encompasses key productive years for many people. This timing means that a diagnosis frequently coincides with an individual’s prime career-building and family-raising years, which can lead to significant adjustment challenges, both personally and professionally. 

Importantly, MS is diagnosed two to three times more frequently in women than in men. The reasons behind this gender discrepancy are still under investigation, but it could influence how healthcare plans and resources are developed, ensuring appropriate and responsive care for women living with MS. 

Geographical Variations 

Studies have shown a clear geographical pattern in the prevalence of MS, with countries further from the equator, such as Canada, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom, reporting higher rates of the disease. Conversely, MS is less common in tropical regions. This geographical distribution suggests environmental factors, possibly including Vitamin D levels, exposure to sunlight, and other region-specific environmental factors, play a role in the disease’s development. 

Other Facts and Considerations 

MS can lead to reduced mobility, which may require adaptations in the workplace and home. 

Individuals with MS have an average life expectancy 7 years shorter than the general population, with the disease often leading to complications that can be life-limiting. 

MS is associated with significant direct and indirect costs, including healthcare expenses, lost income due to reduced work hours, and costs related to services and care. 


Awareness of MS and its holistic impacts is vital in addressing the medical, social, emotional, and economic challenges of those affected. Continuing to promote understanding and responsive care throughout the year is crucial as is pursuing research and strategies that seek to improve the lives of individuals with MS. 

As we observe March Awareness Month for Multiple Sclerosis, our knowledge and action can make a substantive difference. Awareness of these statistics emphasizes the need for comprehensive approaches to care, financial planning, and support strategies. It underlines the importance of addressing not only the medical needs but also the social, emotional, and economic challenges faced by those living with MS. 

Understanding these facts can also help inform our practices as healthcare industry professionals. It guides us in designing benefit programs and support systems that are cognizant of the complexities associated with MS. At MaxCare, we see the value in fostering policies that promote flexibility, adaptability, and inclusivity. Let’s advocate for MS awareness not only in March but throughout the year, optimizing our services to accommodate the varying needs of those with MS. 

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