According to the Institute of Medicine, Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic, inflammatory, demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system (Williamson, 2007). Multiple Sclerosis affects the body's neurons, the cells of the brain and spinal cord that carry information, create thought and perception, and allow the brain to control the body. Surrounding many of these neurons is a fatty layer known as the myelin sheath, which helps neurons carry electrical signals. Multiple Sclerosis causes the myelin sheath to gradually deteriorate. When the myelin sheath is destroyed, the neurons can no longer efficiently conduct their electrical signals. Multiple Sclerosis can cause a variety of symptoms which range from visual, sensation problems, muscle weakness, slurred speech, pain, severe fatigue, cognitive impairment, and depression.
According to King (2007), it has been established that Multiple Sclerosis is not a single-gene disorder. It involves multiple genes interacting with an environmental trigger or triggers. Research points toward infections rather than something toxic in air, water, or food as a triggering agent, though recent evidence hints that lack of sun exposure, leading to lower vitamin D levels, may play a role (King, 2007). Much has been learned about the damage of Multiple Sclerosis, but the exact cause remains a mystery. Nicholas LaRocca, study's project officer and director of Health Care Delivery and Policy Research for the National MS Society, explains that it is very important to understand the medical progression and what happens to people with Multiple Sclerosis over the years (Milano, 2005).
Williamson (2007) estimates that the number of people affected in the United States range from 250,000 to 350,000. According to Williamson (2007), a study done between January 1998 and December 2000 determined the prevalence of Multiple Sclerosis in 19 Texas counties. The study was done with the help of offices of neurologists practicing in the study area, whom allowed the medical records to be reviewed. Several communities in Texas became concerned about the high number of individuals with Multiple Sclerosis that they decided to contact the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). However, DSHS were not able to address the concerns because of the lack of basic epidemiological data on the disease. The 19 counties centered on the city of Lubbock, Texas continues to be constantly monitored because of the relatively isolated geographic location. It was also found that the majority of the people being diagnosed were women. Caucasian women were also found to be more likely to be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis than men or women from another race.
It is known through research that Multiple Sclerosis occurs less often in African-Americans than Caucasians, but African Americans tend to have the most aggressive forms of Multiple Sclerosis ("Racial disparity", 2005). It was also known that African Americans were at a higher risk for disability. Dr. Bruce Cee and colleagues at the University of California reviewed the medical records of 375 African-Americans with Multiple Sclerosis from 33 states and 427 Caucasians with Multiple Sclerosis from 37 states and this review revealed that the mix of types of Multiple Sclerosis were similar between both groups ("Racial disparity", 2005).
Results from another test being done on African-Americans and Caucasians with Multiple Sclerosis in nursing homes showed that while the African-Americans were more disabled than the Caucasians, they received fewer medications...