Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

January 23, 2006 15:58 ET

Canadian Study Challenges Perceptions of MS

Disability progression in MS same for men and women Attention: Assignment Editor, Health/Medical Editor, Lifestyle Editor, News Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO, MS RESEARCH--(CCNMatthews - Jan. 23, 2006) - Challenging the oft-held perception that multiple sclerosis is worse in men than women, a new study shows that disability caused by MS is not impacted by gender. The study, funded by the MS Society of Canada, involved more than 2,800 British Columbia residents and is published in the January 24th issue of Neurology.

"Using an internationally endorsed scale that measures disability, the research team determined that men and women with MS require a cane to walk at around the same age," said Dr. Helen Tremlett, lead investigator and assistant professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia. "By examining the absolute age of when this level of disability occurs, we have a better understanding of the natural course of MS."

Researchers used the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), which is a method of quantifying disability in multiple sclerosis using a scale from zero to ten. A zero represents no disability while a ten means death due to MS (which is extremely rare). In the BC study, the average age to EDSS 6 - use of a cane required - was 60 for women and 59 for men.

While women are more than twice as likely to develop MS than men, earlier studies suggested that men who did get MS became more disabled.

The study involved 2,837 people with MS registered with one of the four MS clinics in BC. Average disease duration for the group was over 20 years.

"Natural history studies like this are vital," said Dr. William McIlroy, national medical advisor for the MS Society of Canada. "Information gleaned from such studies can help guide prognosis and facilitate decisions regarding initiation of drug therapies."

Researchers noted that disease progression in this study was based strictly on a disability scale and did not measure the myriad of other symptoms that MS can present such as numbness, tingling and pain.

The study also challenged the perception that disability due to MS was worse when diagnosed later in life. The researchers concluded that on average, those who were diagnosed in their 20's required a cane age 55. This same level of disability was reached at age 71 for those diagnosed at age 50 and up.

Dr. Virginia Devonshire, director of the MS Clinic at UBC and Dr. Donald Paty, who passed away last year, co-authored the study.

About multiple sclerosis and the MS Society of Canada

MS is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. MS can occur at any age. It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, when people are finishing school, building careers and establishing families. It has been diagnosed in children as young as three. With an estimated 50,000 people living with the disease and three more diagnosed each day, Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.

The MS Society of Canada is almost entirely self-funded and is the largest per-capita supporter of MS research in the world. The mission of the MS Society is to be a leader in finding a cure for multiple sclerosis and enabling people affected by MS to enhance their quality of life.

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Contact Information

  • Stewart Wong, National Manager, Media Relations, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
    Primary Phone: 416-967-3025
    Toll-Free: 866-922-6065