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According to new estimates, multiple sclerosis on rise in Australia

Photo: Multiple sclerosis on rise in Australia
There are now more than 25,000 Australians living with multiple sclerosis, according to new estimates.

Multiple sclerosis is on the rise in Australia - with more than 10 people being diagnosed with MS every week.

New estimates released by MS Research Australia shows 25,600 Australians live with the inflammatory neurological condition, which represents an increase of 4000 people over the past eight years.

The total burden of MS to the community, taking in healthcare and lost productivity, is $1.9 billion, according to the calculations by researchers at the Menzies Institute of Medical Research in Tasmania.

Despite the increasing personal and financial burden of MS on the community, one in two Australians can't identify what causes the disease.
This has led to a call for greater awareness of the complex condition.

"MS remains a challenging condition placing a significant toll on young Australians. We really need to ensure it's higher on the community radar and receives the attention it needs through our research efforts," says Dr Hamish Campbell, Research Development Co-ordinator at MS Research Australia.

The average age of MS diagnosis is 30 and three out of four will be women.

While it can be caused by a person's genes, genetics alone can't be responsible for the rise in prevalence, says Dr Matthew Miles, CEO MS Research Australia.

"There has to be other environmental reasons and we also know that it can't be just because we're getting better at diagnosing it," Dr Miles said.

Other factors already implicated in making a person susceptible to MS include vitamin D deficiency, smoking, and having had glandular fever caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV).

Another "exciting" area of research is the role diet and lifestyle factors will play in the treatment and prevention of MS, Dr Miles said.

"It's alway harder to prove but this is a very important and encouraging and developing part of MS," he said.

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