Uncovering why more Black women than ever are being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis

March 22, 2024
Underdiagnosed for decades, recognizing symptoms and including Black women in MS research is key.

Women are three times more likely than men to get diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), an incurable disease that affects the central nervous system. Now, rates of MS are on the rise among Black women.

Research suggests that Black individuals may also be prone to more aggressive disease progression and greater disability, although the reasons are unknown.

“MS has historically been thought to affect white individuals, therefore there is a lack of awareness about the disease in other patient populations,” said Tirisham Gyang, MD, a neurologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine.

As a result, there has been a lack of recognition of MS in non-white populations leading to an under-diagnosis of MS in Black individuals. There is also an under-representation of Black people in clinical trials. Gyang said.

The first step to finding a cure for MS is ensuring all patients are adequately represented in clinical research, said Gyang, who is also director of the Division of Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology in the Department of Neurology at Ohio State.

Even before Black women can consider joining clinical trials, they must first recognize their symptoms and seek treatment.

The Ohio State University release