Health + Wellness

The Most Common Autoimmune Disease in the Black Community Isn’t Lupus, It’s…

While a lot of people are dealing with lupus, research suggests that Black people may have an even higher chance of battling multiple sclerosis (MS). The problem is that data can be sparse because doctors and researchers have only just started to focus on how MS affects the Black community. What little information exists, however, suggests that you should learn as much as you can about the condition.

What we Know so Far

The first thing you should know is that the information that’s out there about Black people and MS is far from comprehensive. There have been over 60,000 research-based articles about MS published in the last few years but fewer than 120 of those have been focused on Black Americans. Clinical trials and studies also aren’t known to be as diverse as they need to be to address the real-life experiences of Black people. 

Nevertheless, there is enough data to show that Black Americans were 47 percent more likely to develop MS. Furthermore, they tend to be underdiagnosed or diagnosed at a later date than other ethnicities. Of those who are diagnosed, a recent study showed that the affected patients were predominantly Black. Unfortunately, being diagnosed is not the end of the journey as studies also show that Black people have higher mortality rates between the ages of 45 and 64. 

The Symptoms You Need to Know

If you have MS, your immune system attacks the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers. Once you lose that protection, you can experience debilitating issues that affect your brain and central nervous system.

As you might expect, the symptoms can vary for everyone and usually worsen over time. Some of the common symptoms of the condition include numbness or weakness in your limbs, an unsteady gait, lack of coordination, chronic fatigue, partial or complete vision loss, double or blurry vision, vertigo, slurred speech, cognitive issues, mood issues, and problems controlling your bowel or bladder. 

Occasionally, some people have symptoms that aren’t easily identified as MS. This can include a persistent itch that you can’t scratch, an unexplained tight band around the chest that can affect your breathing, unexplained migraines, trouble hearing, a sudden burning in your cheek or jaw that lasts for several minutes, trouble swallowing, and experiencing optical illusions where you think objects are swerving toward you. 

Even with the differences in how symptoms present, researchers have noticed that Black people may deal with certain issues more than others.

For example, Black Americans can have more issues with their balance, walking, vision, and cognitive function. Additionally, your symptoms may worsen more quickly than other ethnicities, which means you can get to the level of having disabilities earlier. Though everybody with MS will have periods of relapse, studies show that Black Americans can have them more frequently and have trouble recovering as well as other ethnicities.

RELATED: 12 MS Patient Advocacy Organizations You Need to Know About

Doctors aren’t sure what causes these differences in symptoms but it’s clear that one factor is how often Black Americans aren’t

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button