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Multiple sclerosis now impacting approx. 1 million Americans

Posted at 12:27 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 13:27:17-04

Recent estimates suggest about 1 million Americans suffer from Multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Ahmed Obeidat, an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, called MS "one of the most common disabling diseases in young adults."

He said roughly 21,000 people across Wisconsin have it.

In patients diagnosed with MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath covering nerve fibers in the body.

"It actually attacks the brain and spinal cord," he said.

Those attacks, which can be tough to predict but typically managed with medication, can vary in severity and in some cases lead to permanent brain and/or nerve damage.

"Those attacks can sometimes last weeks or even months," Dr. Obeiadat said.

Obeidat said MS most commonly appears in people ages 20-years old to 40-years old.

Kayli Evans was just 23-years-old when she was diagnosed.

No one else in Evans' family was ever diagnosed with MS, which first appeared by causing her to lose her vision.

"I had blurry vision even after I put my contact lenses in," Evans said. "I went from blurry vision to no vision over the next two to three days."

Treatment from Dr. Obeidat helped to decrease the inflammation in Evans' optic nerve and restore her sight.

He said it's tough to predict who will develop MS, but he did say previous viral infections and a low level of Vitamin D could possibly be indicators.

"Some people may be more genetically likely to get it, but the environmental factors are huge," Obeidat said.

Other symptoms of MS can include numbness, tingling, weakness, balance problems and walking problems, he said.

Obeidat said, at the Medical College of Wisconsin, researchers are right now working to study other factors that could lead to a patient developing MS.

"We're trying to see what changes develop daily in the immune system in people who develop MS," Obeidat said. "So sometimes, we look at the immune cells and see what's happening, what's changing, and we hope we can predict why these people develop MS and then what happens to them after treatment."

While there's currently no cure for Multiple sclerosis, Obeidat said the best treatment right now is using medications to control the illness's attacks.

"If you can prevent those attacks, people can live a normal life," he said.

That's what Evans is hoping for. She noted she also takes strength from the number of other patients in Wisconsin, and around the world, who have MS.

"There's other people that know what you're going through, that know how you're feeling, and I think it's good to reach out to those people and to surround yourself with a good support system," Evans said.

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