Black Women Disproportionately Affected by Multiple Scleroris

In a new study by Kaiser Permanente, published in Neurology, it was discovered that Multiple Sclerosis is more common in African-American Women than Caucasian, Asian and Hispanic Women. Multiple Sclerosis is now added to the long list of diseases that affect the African-American race more than others.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Multiple Sclerosis, or as it is more commonly known MS, is chronic disease that affect the central nervous system which includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Symptoms of the disease can range from mild, such as slight numbness to severe, which can include paralysis. Scientists concluded the disease to be caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. It is an autoimmune disease, which result in four tracks or courses.

The four tracks range in severity. These four tracks include Relapsing-Remitting MS, which the MS symptoms come and go, Primary-Progressive MS, which the disease slowly gets worse, and Secondary-Progressive MS, which the disease starts as off and on, with remissions or periods without the disease, then it progressively gets worse without remissions, and the last Progressive-Relapsing MS, the disease progressively gets worse but with clear attacks of worsening side effects a long the way.

Kaiser Permanente scanned the medical information of 3.5 million people who were members of Kaiser Permanente Southern California. The study, which took place from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2010, found about 500 patients who were newly diagnosed with MS.

The study concluded more women are diagnosed with MS, 70 percent, than men. MS also has a greater chance of occurring  in African-Americans, 10.2 percent; while Whites are, 6.9 percent, Hispanics are 2.9 percent, and Asians 1.4 percent. This directly contradicts the preconceived notion that MS is a White Woman’s disease.

Scientists of the study concluded that the possible explanation for their findings were people with darker skin tones have lower vitamin D levels and therefore an increased risk of MS, but this theory did not hold true when including Hispanics and Asians.

Many studies have concluded that women with high vitamin D levels have a lower risk of developing MS.

Since the study scientists have not found an absolute reason for the occurrence, just an assumption to the link of Vitamin D for the African-American race. Scientists have also not answered the question why African-Americans, especially African-American women, are at much greater risk to be victims of more diseases than other races.

The study by Kaiser Permanente did not offer a cure, just information on who is a recipient of the disease. Currently there is no cure for MS, but there are many prescription drugs, which and be taken to modify the disease course, treat exacerbations (attacks), manage symptoms and improve function and safety.

Tatiana M. Brown is a native of Washington, D.C. who is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Follow her @TatianaMBrown or check out her website, or contact her at

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