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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Multiple Sclerosis Rates Up 50%

Review Tracking Neurological Disorders Shows 1 in 1,000 Americans Have Multiple Sclerosis
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 29, 2007 -- Multiple sclerosis (MS)Multiple sclerosis (MS)may be 50% more common in the U.S. than previously thought, according to a new research review.

The review from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says almost one in 1,000 people in the U.S. have MS.

However, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society says that figure could still be low.

The society points out that the review's estimate of MS prevalence (the number of people with MS) works out to about 266,000 people.

But the society says it has "over 300,000 people" in its database who say they have MS.

The Review

The review's researchers included Deborah Hirtz, MD, of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

They analyzed 500 studies published from 1990 to 2005 to track MS and 11 other neurological disorders. Their findings appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Neurology.

Since high-quality U.S. data on most disorders were lacking, the researchers often applied data from other countries to the U.S. population.

That approach isn't ideal, the researchers admit. They call for better studies to track neurological disorders in the U.S.

Still, they say their findings show "the burden of neurologic illness affects many millions of people in the United States."

Multiple Sclerosis Findings

"Our estimate of MS prevalence is about 50% higher than a comprehensive review from 1982," Hirtz says in an American Academy of Neurology news release.

"Whether this reflects improvement in diagnosis or whether incidence is actually increasing deserves further study," Hirtz says.

How Common Are Neurological Conditions?

In addition to MS, the researchers tracked the prevalence of the following conditions:

  • Migraine: 121 in 1,000 people
  • EpilepsyEpilepsy: 7.1 in 1,000 people
  • Alzheimer's diseaseAlzheimer's disease:67 in 1,000 people 65 or older
  • Parkinson's diseaseParkinson's disease: 9.5 in 1,000 people 65 or older
  • AutismAutismspectrum disorders: 5.8 in 1,000 children
  • Cerebral palsyCerebral palsy:2.4 in 1,000 children
  • Stroke: 10 per 1,000 people
  • Traumatic brain injury: No prevalence estimates available
  • MS: 0.9 in 1,000 people
  • Spinal cord injury: No prevalence estimates available
  • ALSALS(amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease): 0.04 in 1,000 people
  • Tourette's syndrome: No prevalence estimates

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