March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, by Intermountain Health

Industry: Healthcare

Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis is three times more common in women, according to Intermountain Health experts.

Salt Lake City, UT (PRUnderground) March 28th, 2024

March is National Multiple Sclerosis Month, a time to raise awareness about the neurological disease that affects more than one million Americans.

MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system of the body, which includes the brain and spinal cord.

“MS affects every person differently and no two cases are alike,” said Timothy West, MD, an Intermountain Health neurologist who specializes in treating MS patients at Intermountain. “Historically, MS was one of the more common causes for neurological disability in young adults, however, today we are not seeing this thanks to very effective treatments for the disease.”

In people who have MS, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks a substance called myelin, which is the protective coating around nerve fibers in the central nervous system.

When damaged, the myelin forms scar tissue called sclerosis, which gives the disease its name. This scar tissue interrupts electrical signals traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord, causing a variety of symptoms.

Most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20 and 50, although MS can occur in older adults and young children. However, MS is three times more likely to occur in a woman than in a man,  particularly in postpartum women as there is an immune shift in the body. It’s also more common in white people of northern European descent versus other ethnic groups.

Symptoms of MS are often unpredictable and can be inconsistent and vary among individuals. They may be mild or severe, depending on the area where the central nervous system is affected.

Symptoms, which can fluctuate between periods of remission (no symptoms) to relapse (also known as attacks), may include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Loss of balance and dizziness
  • Stiffness or spasms
  • Tremor
  • Pain
  • Bladder problems
  • Bowel trouble

“It’s wise to get checked by a healthcare provider if symptoms last more than 24 hours,” said Dr. West. “Symptoms can come and go, but it’s worth getting checked out anyway. The sooner you get checked, the better.”

There is no one test that, by itself, can diagnose MS. Healthcare providers first work to rule out other possible causes of symptoms. For patients suspected of having MS, they will also perform a complete health history and a neurological exam.

To diagnose multiple sclerosis, healthcare providers will also look for the following evidence of disease-caused damage (markers) in at least two separate areas of the central nervous system, or that occurred at least one month apart.

Unfortunately, there is no current cure for MS. There are many treatments that can be effective in stabilizing the disease.

Dr. West says the sooner you get diagnosed, the sooner you can receive help, and your outcome will be better. If someone is diagnosed with it, they’ll work with a team of healthcare providers to help manage the disease. Early detection leads to the best outcomes.

Treatment may include:

  • Medication to manage symptoms and reduce frequency of attacks
  • Rehabilitation activities, such as physical therapy and occupational therapy

It’s important for patients to consult with their primary care physicians if they have any symptoms of MS. It is likely that a patient will be referred to a neurologist who oversees conditions affecting the nervous system.

Patients diagnosed with MS may need to adapt their lives to the many ways MS is affecting their bodies.

“It’s important for patients to practice self-care through exercise, a balanced diet, caring for mental health, and following treatment recommendations made by their physician,” said Dr. West. “Caring for those with MS might start with sharing love and concern followed by a conversation on what the person needs.”

Visit to learn more about MS symptoms, and specialized providers.

About Intermountain Health

Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Health is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called Select Health with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see

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