BY Lara Rutherford-Morrison
Yesterday was World MS Day, a day set aside to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system that affects 2.3 million people worldwide, according to the National MS Society. In order to educate the public about early signs of the disease, the UK-based MS Society has created a video, called #inthedark, in which people with multiple sclerosis describe their symptoms.
The MS Society estimates that MS affects 100,000 people in the UK; the last survey by the National MS Society put the US number at around four times that many. MS is a disease of unknown cause that attacks the central nervous system. Here’s a very simplified version of how it works: Our nerve fibers are protected and insulated by a material called myelin, which helps messages to pass between the brain and the nervous system smoothly. When someone has MS, his or her immune system attacks the myelin, a process that can leave scarring and can even damage the nerve fibers. The disease thus disturbs the normal flow of messages from the brain to the body, resulting in a host of different symptoms.
MS can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages because people experience a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from signs like sudden losses of vision, to much more vague feelings of something being “off.” The #inthedark video works to make viewers more aware of these signs, claiming that “People with MS shouldn’t be left #inthedark.” Although the MS Society claims that MS is three times as prevalent in women as in men, and that most people are diagnosed with the disease in their 20s and 30s, the video also shows that MS affects a wide variety of people, male and female, young and old.
The video’s participants catalogue a range of symptoms, but a theme that arises more than one is that many felt suddenly not in control of their own bodies, as if their bodies had been taken over by someone else. A number of people also recall being completely bewildered when their symptoms first began: