This meeting raised our awareness of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). According to the MS Society website, more than 100,000 people in the UK have MS, which impairs the central nervous system. Symptoms usually start in the 20s and 30s and the condition affects almost three times as many women as men. The disease is unpredictable but often progressive and there is, as yet, no cure, although treatments help with control and management of the symptoms.
Multiple Sclerosis Society Leeds Branch
Our speakers were Bill Tucker, the co-ordinator of the Leeds and District Branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, together with support worker Caroline Adams. Both have the condition themselves, yet manage to hold down full time jobs and are active in supporting others with the disease. There are thought to be at least 1,300 sufferers in the Leeds area.
Bill gave a brilliantly lucid layman’s explanation of the condition, which is caused by the immune system attacking the protective coating around nerve fibres. This damage disrupts messages travelling along nerve fibres – they can slow down, become distorted, or not get through at all. Bill likened the process to corrosion of the insulation on the electrical wiring of a motor car, which causes short circuiting and prevents the smooth flow of commands to the engine. Rotarian Dr Raj Menon, in giving a vote of thanks, commended Bill’s analogy of electrical wiring as one that should be adopted by GP’s when explaining the condition to patients.
Bill explained how MRI scans now led to earlier diagnosis, and he took us through the latest research. Scientists have recently identified new biomarkers in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid. These could both diagnose MS more efficiently and help predict how someone’s condition will progress.
The Leeds Branch sends out a monthly newsletter, can provide help with grants, liaises with the NHS MS nurses and supports people after they have received their diagnosis. They arrange fund raising events to support the national organisation’s funding of research.
We were grateful to Bill and Caroline for coming along to raise our awareness of MS and the important work being done by the MS Society and its Leeds Branch.