Multiple Sclerosis Facts and Statistics: 9 Things You Should Know

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How many people in the U.S. have multiple sclerosis?
In the U.S., 350,000 to 500,000 people have been diagnosed with MS.1

Who gets multiple sclerosis more often, men or women?
MS is at least 2 to 3 times more common in women than in men.2

Do all people with multiple sclerosis need wheelchairs eventually?
About one-half to two-thirds of people diagnosed with MS are not severely affected by the disease.1,3 Seven out of 10 remain ambulatory and do not need a wheelchair.>3 Twenty years after diagnosis, an estimated one-third of people who receive no treatment will need a wheelchair.1

How old are people when they develop multiple sclerosis?
MS usually develops between the ages of 20 and 40.4

Are multiple sclerosis rates different in different geographical regions of the world?
MS is more common in people who live farther away from the equator. In a 2011 study in Australia, researchers found that people with most evidence of skin damage from sun exposure were 60 percent less likely to develop symptoms of MS.5

Is multiple sclerosis hereditary?
Although MS is not hereditary, in a family where one parent has MS, children are 2 to 5 percent more likely to get MS as well.1

What are the economic impacts of multiple sclerosis on a family?
One study found that, in the U.S., a year's healthcare costs for one person with MS ranged from about $8,000 to more than $54,000.6

Does multiple sclerosis affect life expectancy?
Most people with MS have a normal life expectancy. A few patients have rare and severe MS, so the overall life expectancy of people with MS is 95 percent of normal.2

Do multiple sclerosis rates vary by race?
You are two times more likely to develop MS if you are white than if you are African-American.7

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1. "Facts about MS," "Multiple Sclerosis FAQs." Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. Accessed March 28, 2013.
2. "Who Gets MS?" National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Accessed March 28, 2013.
3. "Multiple" Health Union. Accessed March 30, 2013.
4. "Multiple Sclerosis." Medline Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Topic last reviewed December 7, 2012.
5. "Risk of Having a First Neurologic Event Is Decreased With Increased Sun Exposure and Higher Blood Levels of Vitamin D, Society-Supported Australian Study Suggests." National Multiple Sclerosis Society. February 8, 2011.
6. Adelmana, Gabriel, Stanley G. Raneb, Kathleen F. Villab. "The Cost Burden of Multiple Sclerosis in the United States: A Systematic Review of the Literature." Journal of Medical Economics. Posted online on March 7, 2013. (DOI:10.3111/13696998.2013.778268)
7. Stachowiak, Julie. "Racial Differences in Multiple Sclerosis." Updated March 10, 2009.