Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory neurological disease that currently affects an estimated 23,000 Australians. It is an incurable, chronic and often debilitating disease where the body attacks itself and damages the protective insulation surrounding the nerve fibres (myelin) in the brain and spinal cord.
New insights released by MS Research Australia as part of their Kiss Goodbye to MS month show that a staggering seven million Australians know someone with MS and while two million have a relative with MS, the disease is still viewed as a mysterious and disabling condition.
The Galaxy national research findings show more than half of Australian adults (52%) are unable to identify what MS is. Additionally less than half (46%) can identify early MS symptoms such as balance problems or dizziness.
Dr Hamish Campbell, Research Development Coordinator of MS Research Australia says that there are probably a multitude of reasons for this confusion about the disease. “People may not necessarily be able to identify symptoms of MS as not everyone who is an MS patient has visible symptoms,” he explains. “They might be experiencing crushing fatigue or chronic pain, which may not be obvious to those around them. Combined with the fact that we are probably managing the disease better than ever before, people with MS may appear to be living what many believe to be a ‘normal’ life.”
Dr Campbell says the key focus is to raise the national awareness of what MS is, and how important funding is for research. “While we haven’t achieved our goal of freedom from MS, there is a key message of hope here,” he says. “We are seeing a 75% reduction in hospitalisations, we are seeing a delay in disease progression and we are seeing MS patients retain employment which is great.”
However, there is always room to do more, and that is where campaigns like Kiss Goodbye to MS come in. “There are some great Australian researchers working to fight MS but we need to give them the tools in order to do that,” says Dr Campbell. “I think that is why Kiss Goodbye is such a vital part of the campaign to make the inroads to achieve our goal of freedom of MS.”
Kiss Goodbye to MS donations can be made by visiting Kiss Goodbye to MS Australians are also urged to show their support via social channels, using the hashtag #kissgoodbyetoms and @kissgoodbyetoms