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Black Americans and Hispanic Americans with multiple sclerosis suffer higher overall disability and higher symptom severity.

Black Americans and Hispanic Americans are underrepresented in research studies for many diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS). Since there is no cure for MS, symptom management is essential for maintaining a complete life while living with the disease.

A recent study analyzed the symptoms related to race, sex, and age groups of Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and White Americans diagnosed with MS. This retrospective study used the Patient-Determined Disability Steps (PDDS) scale to rate disability. The SymptoMScreen (SyMS) assessment tool was used to rate symptom severity. The study used a multivariable model to predict good self-rated health (SRH), including demographic variables, the results of the PDDS, and the SyMS domain scores.

The study sample consisted of 2,622 patients with MS with an age range of 18 to 60+ and a median age of 46.4 years. Most participants were female (73.6%) and White (66.4%). The other participants were Black Americans (21.7%) and Hispanic Americans (11.9%). Compared to results for White AmericansResults, results for Black Americans and Hispanic Americans were associated with higher overall disability and higher symptom severity. The results ratings were based on the following 12 domains commonly affected by MS:

  • Mobility
  • Dexterity
  • Vision
  • Fatigue
  • Cognition
  • Bladder function
  • Sensory function
  • Spasticity
  • Pain
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Men had a higher disability rating than women when adjusted for age and race. However, the total SyMS scores were similar for both men and women. Women reported higher fatigue and anxiety scores, and men reported higher walking and dexterity scores. The multivariate model identified pain, walking, depression, fatigue, and global disability as predictors of good self-rated health. Sex and race/ethnicity were not good predictors of SRH.

Although this study had a limited number of minority participants, it does provide some insight into the effects of MS on Black and Hispanic patients. Exploring Multiple Sclerosis’ effects on Black Americans and Hispanic Americans can identify their areas of need. Correct identification of need provides a means to increase equitable care for minority patients with this disease. 

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Kister, I., Bacon, T., & Cutter, G. R. (2021). How Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms Vary by Age, Sex, and Race/Ethnicity. Neurol Clin Pract, 11(4), 335-341. https://doi.org/10.1212/cpj.0000000000001105