Multiple sclerosis on the rise in Australia

Stock image.
Stock image.

MULTIPLE sclerosis (MS) is on the rise with new estimates revealing more than 25,000 Australians now live with the condition, an increase of 4400 over the past eight years.

On average 10 Australians are diagnosed with MS every week.

MS Research Australia chief executive Matthew Miles said while the prevalence was increasing, MS remained firmly under the radar with only four out of 10 Australians ranking it a community health priority.

These early findings form part of an MS Report Card published yesterday by MS Research Australia, to mark the launch of Kiss Goodbye to MS month in May.

It suggests the cost of MS to the community is now $1.9 billion, covering direct costs including treatment, healthcare and disability services, and indirect costs due to lost productivity (reduced employment, informal unpaid care).

Dr Miles said despite this Australians only ranked MS eighth on a health priority list behind mental health, cancer, diabetes, heart health, dementia, motor neurone disease and Parkinson’s disease.

“MS is an incurable, chronic, often debilitating inflammatory neurological condition where the body’s immune system attacks itself and damages the protective insulation surrounding the nerve fibres (myelin) in the brain and spinal cord,” he said.

“It affects more young people than any other acquired chronic neurological disease often striking in the prime of life.

“The average age of diagnosis is just 30 years old and three out of four people diagnosed are female.”

Dr Miles said MS was caused by a complex combination of factors that include genes, viral infections and ‘environmental’ factors such as smoking, low sunlight and vitamin D, and others.

“MS remains a challenging condition in our community placing a very significant toll on younger Australians where it is most frequently diagnosed,” he said.

“It also brings a heavy burden in cost to manage it.

“We really need to ensure it is higher on the community radar and receives the attention it needs through research efforts to better understand and manage this complex disease.”

Dr Miles said research was close to finding a cure for MS.

“We believe we can solve the puzzle of MS in our lifetime – so now is the time to really forge ahead and accelerate our research efforts rather than let them keep ticking along at the same pace,” he said.

Kiss Goodbye to MS is MS Research Australia’s fundraising campaign aiming to secure $1.3 million for MS Research in 2018 to find a cure for MS.

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