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SmartHealthToday: Finding a cure for MS starts with awareness and education; research matters

By Shelly Reese

March is National MS Education and Awareness Month. Why is education and awareness so important?

It’s the first step toward research and finding a cure, says Randy Nickum, coordinator of logistics and volunteer engagement for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Ohio Valley chapter.

Worldwide, more than 2.3 million people suffer from MS, a chronic disease of the central nervous system. MS can cause many symptoms including blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, blindness and more. These problems may come and go or persist and worsen over time.

Although most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, MS can affect individuals as young as 2 and as old as 75, according to the National MS Society.

“Over the past 15 years, we’ve gone from zero disease-modifying drugs to 14 or 15 largely due to greater awareness of MS as a debilitating disease and the effect it has on patients and their families,” he says. Today “there are drugs out there that help reduce the number of lesions and to a varying degree slow the progression of the disease. But we are still just treating the symptoms. We don’t have any way to cure or prevent it.”

Nickum says that’s where education, awareness and the ever-important research dollars come in. By promoting understanding about the scope of this disease, MS organizations hope to galvanize the community to find a cure.

“The insidious thing about MS is its effects are different in every person living with it,” says Nickum. “It’s completely unpredictable.”

While various MS organizations will be sponsoring events across the country during the month of March, Nickum says everyone, not just those affected by MS, is invited to participate in a wide variety of activities that will happen across the country. Throughout the month, these activities will get people involved in raising awareness and will help to broaden their personal understanding of MS. Awareness kits are available from MS Focus for those who wish to become involved in the effort. Other MS organizations are encouraged to participate as well.
What can you do to help fight MS?

1. Visit the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation’s website to download an MS awareness kit and learn about ways you can get involved.

2. Plan ahead to participate in Walk MS:Cincinnati on Saturday, April 22 at Sawyer Point. The site opens at 8:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 10 a.m. Last year’s walk raised more than $286,000 to fund critical services and research. The walk is expected to draw between 2,500 and 3,000 participants including more than 400 individuals battling MS.

“The bulk of the money raised at our events goes to funding national level research projects,” Nickum says, “And one of the major focuses of those research dollars is on repairing the damage caused by MS.”

SmartHealthToday is a service of St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

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