"There have been significant advances in the last few years about the cause of MS. There appears to be several different factors. One is genetics; the disease is more prevalent in people from Northern Europe. The second one is low Vitamin D levels early in life, and possibly in in-utero, increase the risk of MS subsequently," University of Colorado Doctor Tim Vollmer said.
He says people in Colorado are normally diagnosed with low-levels of Vitamin D. Some experts believe Vitamin D levels may be low in the state because of Coloradan's use of sunscreen.
Vollmer says new MS research and treatments are progressing at a remarkable rate.
"The field Multiple Sclerosis is one of the most rapidly evolving fields of medicine right now. We have eight FDA therapies and three that are likely to be approved within the next year to 18 months. In the last year or so, we've developed a new blood test that would identify patients who are at risk of some of the serious side effects of the drugs. As a consequence, we can now identify people who are likely to do very well on a certain drug with a very low risk," Vollmer said.
Although there is no cure for MS, there are treatments and medications. MS treatment typically focuses on strategies to treat symptoms and attacks.
"Some of the newer drugs like Tysabri or Genelia in particular have a much bigger impact in preventing disability. In the case of Tysabri, about half to maybe two-thirds [of] patients actually improve over time with that therapy. That's the first time in history we've ever had that treatment available," Vollmer said.
Vollmer says the disease generally presents itself as symptoms that affect the brain and nervous system.
"Symptoms of MS can be anything the brain does; typically it's vision problems, numbness, tingling strength or balance problems," Vollmer said.
There are several different resources for people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis in Colorado.
"There's the MS Center, there's folks both available online as well as the website, there's the National MS Society, www.nationalmssociety.org, and then we have educational programs that we offer throughout the year," Vollmer said.
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