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New Study On Vision Impairment

New Study Shows Differences in Visual Impairment and Damage Between African Americans and Caucasians with MS.

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As recently as 15 years ago, many people in the medical community viewed MS as a disease that predominantly affected those of European descent.

But is it just less studied? A 2015 article written by six noted MS researchers and published in Neurology Clinical Practice, reported that out of nearly 60,000 published articles about MS, only 113, or about 0.002 percent, focus on African-Americans.

Studies show:
  • A 2012 study of military personnel published in Military Medicine reported 46 percent more cases of MS in blacks than in non-Hispanic whites.
  • And a 2013 study found that blacks had a 47 percent increased risk of MS compared with whites. The study, which was published in Neurology, also found that among blacks, women had triple the risk of MS compared with men. This mirrors the increased risk of MS among women of northern European ancestry.
A follow-up study found that about 26 percent of blacks have a family history of MS, a rate similar to that of whites.

The myth that black people do not get MS is just that — a myth. With such pervasive evidence of MS in African-Americans, doctors consider it as a potential diagnosis much more readily now.

Different symptoms

There’s some evidence that MS can manifest differently and be especially active in African-Americans:
  • more likely to experience more relapses
  • more likely to experience greater disability
  • have a greater risk of progressing to require ambulatory assistance earlier
  • more likely to develop involvement of the optic nerves and spinal cord (optic-spinal MS) and inflammation of the spinal cord (transverse myelitis). A 2004 study published in Neurology reported optic-spinal MS occurs in 17 percent of African-Americans compared with 8 percent of Caucasians. And transverse myelitis affects 28 percent of African-Americans with MS compared with 18 percent of Caucasians.
Unlike subtler MS symptoms, mobility and vision issues can spur a person to visit a doctor more quickly. And that may be why the study found that once they get medical attention for their symptoms, African-Americans tend to be diagnosed with MS faster than white people (one year after symptom onset for blacks compared with two years for whites).

Vision issues (video)

Optic Neuritis

People living with multiple sclerosis share their experiences with optic neuritis, and neuro-opthamologist Tariq Bhatti, MD from Duke University Medicine discusses management and treatment options.

Participate in MS genetics studies

Different populations are being studied to learn why some ethnic groups develop MS at higher rates than others. The MS Genetics Group is asking for the donation of a blood samples from African-American individuals with MS and controls without MS. It is not required, but the participation of certain family members is preferred as well.

African-American Education Conferences

Raleigh, NC, March 18
Detroit, MI, March 25
New York, NY, date TBD
Philadelphia, PA, date TBD
Charleston, SC, date TBD

Additional video resources

Living with MS: African American Perspectives

MS and African Americans: Reasons for Hope

MS and African Americans: Diagnosis and Clinical Courses

Additional resources

A Fresh Perspective- Momentum article

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