The Global Impact of MS

Multiple sclerosis cases have increased around the world according to new MS report

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Multiple sclerosis is a condition that results in different outcomes in the lives of different patients. And a new report shows that this wide-ranging condition might be more widespread than previously thought.

The Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF), a network of organizations around the globe, created the new report which estimates the prevalence of the condition worldwide.

The report found a nearly 10 percent increase in multiple sclerosis diagnoses compared to five years ago, affecting an estimated 2.3 million patients across the globe.

"Consult a doctor if you experience changes in vision."

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms and severity can vary greatly from patient to patient - ranging from numbness in the limbs to paralysis and vision loss. 

MSIF's new report, Atlas of MS 2013, worked with people and organizations around the globe to estimate the worldwide prevalence of MS. Data was compared to a similar survey completed in 2008.

The report estimated 2.3 million people around the globe cope with MS - an increase of 9.5 percent from the 2.1 million estimated in 2008. The findings showed MS in every region of the world.

The report also found the disease more likely to affect women - a finding consistent with the 2008 results. The ratio of women to men with MS was around two to one. 

According to the Atlas of MS, support and healthcare services for people with MS have improved overall, but major inequalities in accessibility and affordability of treatments remained from region to region and country to country.

The report estimated a 30 percent increase of neurologists around the world (the type of doctor that typically treats MS) and a doubling of the number of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines (used to diagnose MS) in emerging countries since 2008.

However, the report also found that one in five countries had no organization to help support MS patients and that governments in low income countries did not provide financial support for treating the condition.

While government funded (either partially or fully) disease-modifying therapies were available in 96 percent of high income countries and 45 percent of lower middle income countries, they were available in zero low income countries.

In a statement on the MSIF website, Alan Thompson, PhD, Chairman of MSIF's International Medical and Scientific Board, highlighted the importance of understanding the state of MS around the globe.

“Capturing the enormity of the global impact of MS clearly and accurately is essential if we are to improve management of the disease and reduce disability," said Dr. Thompson. "Nowhere is this more relevant than for those with progressive MS, for whom the lack of effective treatments and the steady deterioration in abilities is particularly challenging."

It is important to note that the study does not attempt to explain reasons behind the increase of MS seenmuch of which might be due to the improvements seen in diagnostic tools like MRI machines and the increase of medical professionals like neurologists. 

The report was published by MSIF on October 2. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
October 2, 2013
Last Updated:
October 13, 2013