Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.
The cause of MS is still unknown – scientists believe the disease is triggered by as-yet-unidentified environmental factor in a person who is genetically predisposed to respond. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease.
There are 4 main types of MS –
- RRMS – the most common disease course – is characterized by clearly defined attacks of new or increasing neurologic symptoms. These attacks – also called relapses or exacerbations – are followed by periods of partial or complete recovery (remissions). During remissions, all symptoms may disappear, or some symptoms may continue and become permanent. However, there is no apparent progression of the disease during the periods of remission. At different points in time, RRMS can be further characterized as either active (with relapses and/or evidence of new MRI activity) or not active, as well as worsening (a confirmed increase in disability over a specified period of time following a relapse) or not worsening. Approximately 85% of people with MS are initially diagnosed with RRMS.
- PPMS is characterized by worsening neurologic function (accumulation of disability) from the onset of symptoms, without early relapses or remissions. PPMS can be further characterized at different points in time as either active (with an occasional relapse and/or evidence of new MRI activity) or not active, as well as with progression (evidence of disease worsening on an objective measure of change over time, with or without relapse or new MRI activity) or without progression. Approximately 15% of people with MS are diagnosed with PPMS.
- SPMS follows an initial relapsing-remitting course. Most people who are diagnosed with RRMS will eventually transition to a secondary progressive course in which there is a progressive worsening of neurologic function (accumulation of disability) over time. SPMS can be further characterized at different points in time as either active (with relapses and/or evidence of new MRI activity) or not active, as well as with progression (evidence of disease worsening on an objective measure of change over time, with or without relapses) or without progression.
- CIS is a first episode of neurologic symptoms caused by inflammation and demyelination in the central nervous system. The episode, which by definition must last for at least 24 hours, is characteristic of multiple sclerosis but does not yet meet the criteria for a diagnosis of MS because people who experience a CIS may or may not go on to develop MS.
Multiple sclerosis is thought to affect more than 2.3 million people worldwide. While the disease is not contagious or directly inherited, epidemiologists — scientists who study patterns of disease — have identified factors in the distribution of MS around the world that may eventually help determine what causes the disease. These factors include gender, genetics, age, geography and ethnic background.
Epidemiology is the branch of medicine that deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health. Epidemiological studies are challenging for several reasons:
- MS can be difficult to diagnose. Since there is no single test for MS, the diagnosis can be missed, delayed or even incorrect.
- MS is not a “reportable” disease, which means that the government does not require physicians to inform any central database when they make the diagnosis. Without this kind of centralized reporting system, there is no easy way to count people with MS.
- Data from earlier epidemiological studies may not accurately represent the current MS population because the investigators used different methods for identifying and counting people with MS, as well as different strategies for analyzing their data.
For more information, visit the National MS Society at http://www.nationalmssociety.org.
May is a time when the mental health community can spread information, resources and support to new audiences. It’s also a time to increase our advocacy efforts to push for mental health reform and, as a result, improve the mental health system for everyone affected by mental illness.
You may already have a plan for how to get involved during this important time of year. If you aren’t sure what you can do, here are a few steps to help make a difference:
Step 1: Live it
Make this movement a part of your life by pledging to be #stigmafree. The perfect way to kick off Mental Health Month is to committing to educate yourself and others, see the person and not the illness and to take action on mental health issues.
Step 2: Share it
Now that you are living the stigmafree life, let your networks know. An effective way to spread awareness is through sharing inspirational posts on social media. Tell your Facebook friends that you took the pledge and encourage them to do the same. Tweet and motivate your followers to learn more about mental health. Take an insta of you sporting your favorite green outfit in support of mental health reform. Share your mental health journey on one of NAMI’s tumblr accounts, You Are Not Alone and Ok2Talk. If you aren’t sure what to post, check out these sample tweets and messages. Remember to use #stigmafree and #MentalHealthMonth in your posts.
Step 3: Show it
A valuable way to show your support for this movement is to advocate for improvements in the mental health system. We have a historic opportunity this May to encourage the U.S. Senate to vote yes for mental health care reform legislation. The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 has the ability to improve mental health services and supports, prioritize early intervention and identification, and enforce federal parity for mental health. So email, tweet or call your senators to get this legislation passed. You can be a leader in the mental health movement, and we are here to help you.
Step 4: Give back
NAMI’s priority is to educate and support those affected by mental health conditions, advocate for a better, more equitable health system, and to spread mental health awareness. These goals will make the world a better place for those who live with mental illness and their families. We can’t do this without the help of our friends. Please consider giving us a gift that will allow us to continue making a difference. We appreciate your support in helping us grow this movement.
For more information, visit the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
More than 12,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,000 of women will die. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide, but because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer. Deaths from cervical cancer in the United States continue to decline by approximately 2 percent a year. This decline is primarily due to the widespread use of the Pap test to detect cervical abnormalities and allow for early treatment. Most women who have abnormal cervical cell changes that progress to cervical cancer have never had a Pap test or have not had one in the previous three to five years.
Cancer of the cervix tends to occur during midlife. Half of the women diagnosed with the disease are between 35 and 55 years of age. It rarely affects women under age 20, and approximately 20 percent of diagnoses are made in women older than 65. For this reason, it is important for women to continue cervical cancer screening until at least the age of 70. Some women need to continue screening longer, so ask your health care provider what’s best for you.
What causes cervical cancer?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is found in about 99% of cervical cancers. There are over 100 different types of HPV, most of which are considered low-risk and do not cause cervical cancer. High-risk HPV types may cause cervical cell abnormalities or cancer. More than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases can be attributed to two types of the virus, HPV-16 and HPV-18, often referred to as high-risk HPV types.
HPV is estimated to be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. In fact, by age 50 approximately 80% of women have been infected with some type of HPV. The majority of women infected with the HPV virus do NOT develop cervical cancer. For most women the HPV infection does not last long; 90% of HPV infections resolve on their own within 2 years. A small number of women do not clear the HPV virus and are considered to have “persistent infection. A woman with a persistent HPV infection is at greater risk of developing cervical cell abnormalities and cancer than a woman whose infection resolves on its own. Certain types of this virus are able to transform normal cervical cells into abnormal ones. In a small number of cases and usually over a long period of time (from several years to several decades), some of these abnormal cells may then develop into cervical cancer.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cervix, the narrow opening into the uterus from the vagina. The normal “ectocervix” (the portion of the uterus extending into the vagina) is a healthy pink color and is covered with flat, thin cells called squamous cells. The “endocervix” or cervical canal is made up of another kind of cell called columnar cells. The area where these cells meet is called the “transformation zone” (T-zone) and is the most likely location for abnormal or precancerous cells to develop.
How can Cervical Health Awareness Month make a difference?
We can use this opportunity to spread the word about important steps women can take to stay healthy.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Encourage women to get their well-woman visit this year.
- Let women know that the health care reform law covers well-woman visits and cervical cancer screening. This means that, depending on their insurance, women can get these services at no cost to them.
- Talk to parents about how important it is for their pre-teens to get the HPV vaccine. Both boys and girls need the vaccine.
Two tests(http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/screening.htm) can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—
- The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, which are cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
- The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.
For more information, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition.