Epidemiology of Multiple Sclerosis

The Epidemiology of Multiple Sclerosis is measured in two ways. One is incidence and the other is prevalence. But first, what exactly is epidemiology? Is it even worth worrying about? Or is it just an interesting fact to know about MS?

Well, how about we start at the beginning. What does epidemiology mean? If you're an average person like me, you don't run across this word very often. So here goes – literally, it means "the study of what is upon the people", is derived from Greek epi, meaning "upon, among", demos, meaning "people, district", and logos, meaning "study."

    “Epidemiology is the study of health-event patterns in a society. It is the cornerstone method of public health research, and helps inform evidence-based medicine for identifying risk factors for disease and determining optimal treatment approaches to clinical practice and for preventive medicine.” 
    Wikipedia

Now back to incidence and prevalence. As I said earlier, these are the two ways epidemiology is measured.

    Incidence is a measure of the risk of developing some new condition within a specified period of time. Although sometimes loosely expressed simply as the number of new cases during some time period, it is better expressed as a proportion or a rate with a denominator. 
    And..., 
    Prevalence of a disease in a statistical population is defined as the total number of cases of the disease in the population at a given time, or the total number of cases in the population, divided by the number of individuals in the population. It is used as an estimate of how common a condition is within a population over a certain period of time.

Epidemiology of multiple sclerosis - what does it mean?

What does the epidemiology of Multiple Sclerosis mean for doctors and other health care professionals? Basically it helps physicians or other health professionals understand the probability of certain diagnoses - like what type of MS you will most likely develop.

This data is used by epidemiologists, health care providers government agencies, and insurers. According to statistics, MS has a prevalence that ranges between 2 and 150 per 100,000 depending on the country or specific population where a person is living.

What do all these statistics mean to me and you? Probably not a whole lot when you've just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. When the dust has settled and you've come to terms with having MS, then maybe they will help you make sense of why you have it – the “Why Me”, factor.

If you're interested in the epidemiology of multiple sclerosis, you will find that if you are a person in your 30's, you are more likely to develop MS. This is also true if you are a woman. Women are more likely to develop autoimmune disorders.

Adults are more likely than children. And the older you are, the more likely you are to develop Primary-Progressive MS than other age groups.

Where you live also plays a roll in determining if you will develop the disease. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you are more likely to develop it. So, should we all move closer to the equator? If you do this before you turn 15 years old, then you are just as likely to develop multiple sclerosis as the region you just moved to. Anytime after that age, however, and you retain the same likelihood of getting MS as the place you moved from.

Are you a Samis, Turkmen, Amerindians, Canadian Hutterite, African, or New Zealand Maori? Then you are less likely to develop the disease. Even the season of your birth may make a difference in whether or not you develop multiple sclerosis. This has to do with the amount of sunlight and vitamin D during the different seasons.

There are so many variables when studying the epidemiology of multiple sclerosis. Epidemiologists have long had their work cut out for them. Hopefully their findings will soon uncover something that will point research in the right direction for a cure. Or at least a treatment that can reverse the debilitating effects of MS. 

Click here to read one woman's journey of MS 

Go from Epidemiology of Multiple Sclerosis back to What is MS? 

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