An estimated 2,500,000 people in the world and 100,000 people in the UK have multiple sclerosis. Research suggests the proportion of women with MS is increasing and that roughly between two and three women have MS for every man with the condition.
The distribution of MS around the world is uneven. Generally, the prevalence increases as you travel further north or south from the equator. Those parts of Asia, Africa and America that lie on the equator have extremely low levels of MS, whilst Canada and Scotland have particularly high rates.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of symptoms including problems with muscle movement, balance and vision.
Each nerve fibre in the brain and spinal cord is surrounded by a layer of protein called myelin, which protects the nerve and helps electrical signals from the brain travel to the rest of the body. In MS, the myelin becomes damaged.
This disrupts the transfer of these nerve signals, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, such as:
- loss of vision – usually only in one eye
- spasticity – muscle stiffness that can lead to uncontrolled muscle movements
- ataxia – difficulties with balance and co-ordination
- fatigue – feeling very tired during the day
Studies show that certain ethnic groups have a markedly lower prevalence of multiple sclerosis, despite living in countries where MS is common. For instance, the Sami or Lapps of northern Scandinavia and the Inuit’s in Canada have very low rates of MS. A similar pattern is observed amongst the Maoris of New Zealand.
The fact that multiple sclerosis is most prevalent in northern Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand has led to speculation that it has been carried around the world by European colonists and settlers. It has been suggested that the origins can be traced back to the Vikings who colonised those parts of Northern Europe where MS is most pronounced and that ‘Viking genes’ can make people particularly susceptible to MS.
It has also been noted that Scotland has a much higher rate of multiple sclerosis than England or Wales and that areas of high MS prevalence around the world have been settled by Scottish immigrants. In Ireland, the north of which was extensively settled by immigrants from Scotland from the 17th century, the rate in Co Wexford in the south was recorded in 2004 as 121 per 100,000 whilst the rate in County Donegal in the north was 185. A study of Northern Ireland found a rate of 168 in 1996.
Adaptawear understands a MS sufferer may have difficulty dressing themselves and we have a wide range of ladies and men’s clothing adapted to help with dressing including easy to use front fastening bras.