Women's Health Week: Multiple Sclerosis

Lets focus on degenerative diseases.

Researchers are uncovering an alarming trend among the number of people who develop multiple sclerosis.

The debilitating disease is more likely to strike women. In fact a growing body of research suggests the gap between women and men with M-S has more than doubled.

A study finds between 1940 and 2000 the ratio of women to men with multiple sclerosis jumped from two to one - to four to one.

Doctor Ruth Ann Marrie is a researcher at Cleveland Clinic. She says, "We're seeing an increase of nearly 50% per decade in which women are relatively more affected than men -- that's a pretty rapid change over time."

These findings are supported by recent research out of Canada and Europe.

This latest study examined a US-Canadian database of more than 32,000 people with MS, an unpredictable chronic disease of the nervous system, that can trigger a menu of symptoms.

These include problems with vision, speech and movement.

The growing gender gap was biggest among young patients notes Dr. Marrie,"This points to that there is some changing phenomenon in our environment that must be changing who gets MS."

Environment and lifestyle changes will now be the focus of research.

Scientists will consider everything from obesity to smoking trends in women to oral contraceptive use among women, hoping to find links to the growing M-S gender gap and clues that may one day point to ways to prevent M-S in both sexes.

For answers to some of the questions you might have regarding this disease, watch the video extra with Dr. Stephen Bryan. He is a neurologist here in Montgomery, Alabama.