Tuesday 11 May 2021
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Multiple Sclerosis cases soar

With an increase in numbers of Multiple Sclerosis(MS) cases recorded, Namibia has categorised the chronic disease under the rare disease category.
MS is one of the most common neurological disorders among young adults between the ages of 20 and 40. It is regarded globally as a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system such as the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
Although MS is a non-fatal disease, it is regarded as a condition that keeps getting worse.
The number of diagnosis over the years is said to have increased as a current figure of thirty to forty people are diagnosed with the disease annually.
Speaking to Founder and Project Manager of Multiple Sclerosis Namibia, Bianca Özcan said the numbers have been increasing as more people have come out to speak out about their experiences with MS.
Özcan said there are still a number of unreported cases that continue to pose a challenge “because usually the first thoughts that comes to the mind of an MS patient when diagnosed, are very scary.
These thoughts are usually joined with the fear of security, loss of relationships with family and friends, and stigmatization of being classified as disabled.
These challenges make it very difficult for the MS Society of Namibia to identify people in the country living with MS, because they are afraid to be known as an MSér, hence we cannot always compile a concrete list of people with MS in Namibia and cater to their needs” she explained.
Özcan further explained that MS still remains unknown as to what exactly causes it, but some of the main causes are environmental factors, genes, hereditary and auto-immune infections.
The disease in severe cases is also said to usually cause paralysation and blindness while in milder cases there may be numbness in the limbs.
“Some common symptoms of MS include fatigue, numbness, tingling feeling, and blurred vision cause by the inflammation of the optic nerve, loss of muscle strength which can vary from reduced dexterity to actual paralysis thus resulting in the use of sticks, crutches or even a wheelchair.
Loss of balance or co-ordination and short term memory loss can also occur” she said.
People diagnosed with MS also tend to experience difficulty in walking, trouble with urinating or completely emptying the bladder and can have severe effects sexual engagements on both men and women.
With there being four stages of MS namely Relapsing Remitting MS, Secondary Progressive MS, Primary Progressive MS and Progressive Relapsing MS, Özcan noted that it is difficult to say exactly what the most common type in Namibia is as it all depends on the direction the disease takes with each person and their lifestyle.
“I can however say that it remains an average throughout the four stages for the patients on our database” she said.
Factors that contribute to MS relapse are often unpredictable and can occur without warning.
The factors include seasons where it tends to occur more frequently during spring and summer than in autumn and winter, infections such as colds, influenza which increases the risk for a relapse.
Emotional and physical stress, severe illness of any kind, heat and during the first few months after pregnancy delivery also pose as factors as the risk of a relapse increases from 20 to 40 percent.
She noted that MS at the moment can only be treated and not cured as research remains ongoing. The treatment is also however unaffordable with or without medical aid Özcan revealed.
She highlighted that the Multiple Sclerosis Namibia society since its inception has formed a foundation and hub that caters for the newly diagnosed and existing MS patients by offering them information and assistance with queries and needs that they may have.
“We mostly advise on how to live a healthy life, get connected with the correct medical professionals, how to cope with the disease and how to get support in whichever way possible.
Our main focus is awareness raising. We have regular TV and radio interviews, social and printed press, ongoing capacity building through networking and fundraising,” said Özcan.

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