30 April 2012
The UK is this week honouring MS Awareness Week, with one representative believing that more needs to be done to further educate people about the disease.
Jo Sopala, a spokeswoman for the MS Trust, acknowledged that more than 100,000 people in the UK are currently affected by MS – short for Multiple Sclerosis. She pointed out that this figure works out at one in 600 of the country's population.
However, Ms Sopala believes that because there is one in three Brits who are diagnosed with a form of cancer on an annual basis, it is unsurprising that MS takes a backseat to more common diseases.
"But more attention should be paid to MS," the spokeswoman stated, especially since some of the initial symptoms of the condition are often overlooked.
Understanding the symptoms of MS
MS is a complex neurological condition where the pattern of symptoms is different in each person and can also change over time, making the disease hard to understand.
Common symptoms of MS include problems with walking, vision, pain and altered sensations like numbness and burning, though fatigue should also act as a warning sign as this can often have a major impact on people's lives.
This form of fatigue is very different from the tiredness or exhaustion that people without MS experience following strenuous exercise or a busy day at work. It often involves the sudden loss of energy and the inability to continue an activity.
Furthermore, MS fatigue can not be worked through, as can sometimes be done with non MS fatigue, and recovery time also tends to be much longer.
Commenting on the effects of MS, Ms Sopala acknowledged: "MS is the most common disabling condition of the central nervous system that affects young adults … It is a lifelong, debilitating condition which is extremely variable and unpredictable."
How to become more aware of MS
MS Awareness Week is a perfect opportunity for people to make the effects of the life-changing condition known to a wider majority of the British public.
Between April 30th and May 6th, individuals are being encouraged to 'Be bold in blue!' in order to support the health-conscious week.
This can involve arranging a day at work where every staff member has to wear a piece of blue clothing, with donations then made for a charity or trust associated with MS.
Other ideas include selling cakes with blue icing or even dying your hair blue – with funds raised also going towards the benefit of a chosen MS awareness cause.
People who have suffered from MS could also help others who may be going through the early stages of the disease by talking about their own experience to a local newspaper of news programme.
Not looking for that much publicity? Then perhaps arranging a talk inside a community centre will feel more comfortable.
The experience may not just help people to better understand the ins and outs of MS, but also enable sufferers to become more at ease with their battle against the condition.
The benefits of understanding MS
One of the main problems surrounding MS is the assumption that people who contract the disease then have to use a wheelchair in their everyday life.
Ms Sopala pointed out that this cannot be further from the truth though – 75 per cent of those with MS do not use a wheelchair on a regular basis.
As a result, the spokeswoman acknowledged: "With the right information and support, many people with MS can adapt their lives to ensure that they can remain in employment, continue to have active family/social lives and not be dominated by their MS."
Other advantages of raising public awareness about MS are that employers will begin to understand that having an employee with the condition should not affect workplace productivity, while family and friends will have the means to give better support.
"And greater awareness would also hopefully lead to more resources being available to support people with MS," Ms Sopala concluded.
Posted by Edward Bartel
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