Skip to navigation Skip to content



Preliminary Results of MS Prevalence Study Estimate Nearly 1 Million Living with MS in the U.S.

October 26, 2017

In a study presented this week at ECTRIMS—the world’s largest MS research meeting—preliminary results from leading experts estimate nearly 1 million people are living with MS in the United States. This is more than twice the previously reported number, which was a result of a 1975 national study and subsequent updates. An important next step in confirming this prevalence number includes anticipated publication in a prominent medical journal.
People affected by MS, health care policy experts and researchers have long expressed the need for understanding how many people live with MS in the U.S. A scientifically sound and up to date prevalence estimate will allow us to better understand and address the needs of people with MS and accelerate our impact through advocacy and research. It can help answer such questions as the economic burden of MS on families and society, while ensuring the National MS Society is able to connect to and support all people affected by MS.
To address the gap in prevalence estimates, the National MS Society launched the MS Prevalence Initiative in 2014 with the goal of determining the best way to develop a scientifically sound and economically feasible estimate of the number of people in the U.S. who have MS. This initiative included leading experts in MS epidemiology, statistics and healthcare, who utilized administrative datasets from a variety of sources including Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran’s Health Administration, and private insurers. 
More work is needed to understand all the factors that led to this increase, however the research team leading this study cites evidence that MS prevalence has increased.
Publication of the study is expected in 2018.
Click here for more background on the MS Prevalence Initiative. For more updates from ECTRIMS, click here.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


© 2023 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its Identification Number (EIN) is 13-5661935.