MS has historically been thought to primarily affect Caucasians, particularly those of Northern European descent. However, breakthroughs in research have revealed more information about MS in other racial and ethnic populations. Studies of military personnel and subscribers of Southern California Kaiser Permanente healthcare system both indicate a higher incidence (the number of people newly diagnosed with MS within a given period of time) of MS in those in the Black community than previously thought.
There’s some evidence that MS symptoms can be different in range and severity for Black people:
- more frequent relapses and poorer recovery
- more walking problems
- more balance and coordination problems
- more problems with thinking
- earlier disability onset
- more visual symptoms
The Black MS Experience Summit is a three-day virtual event that gives the Black MS community an opportunity to connect with others who understand the distinct experience of life with MS as a Black person. The Summit features leading MS experts who can speak to this experience to offer support, guidance and updates in research.
Participate in medical research
Research moves us forward – it is how we learn more about MS, develop better methods of symptom management and ultimately, find a cure. Medical research on MS has historically not included people of ethnic and racial minorities. To best inform Black communities with MS about their disease, it is essential to participate in research. Otherwise, recommendations are based off conclusions from studies of other ethnic groups and races.
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 Black people with MS and controls without MS. It is not required, but the participation of certain family members is preferred as well.
The National African Americans with MS Registry was created to accurately estimate the number of Black people diagnosed with MS in the United States as well as geographic distribution. With the data, researchers can study the existence of barriers to access to care and strategies that are needed to undo inequities of access
Learn more about how you could be Making a Difference in MS Through Research in this article from the MS Minority Research Engagement Partnership Network.