- Which famous people have multiple sclerosis?
- Famous People Who Have or Had Multiple Sclerosis
- Jack Osbourne
- Jamie-Lynn Sigler
- Ann Romney
- The Power of Celebrity Advocacy
- Selma Blair: Cruel Intentions star reveals MS diagnosis
- You might also be interested in
- How are readers coping with the condition?
- Multiple Celebrities with Multiple Sclerosis, Michelle Obama and the Death of Captain Beefheart
- MS FAQs
- What is multiple sclerosis?
- What causes MS?
- Is MS fatal? Can MS be treated?
- What Type of Doctor Specializes in MS? How is MS Diagnosed?
- Who gets MS? How many people have MS?
- Does MS or its treatments pose any risks to becoming pregnant?
- Can I inherit MS?
- Ask a Question Not Listed Here
Which famous people have multiple sclerosis?
An MS diagnosis did not stop the following famous figures from continuing to live life to the full.
Share on PinterestRichard Pryor took the stage long after his diagnosis.
Comedian Richard Pryor received an MS diagnosis in 1986.
Although the comic said that MS was responsible for ending his prolific movie career, he continued to perform his very popular comedy acts.
In 1992, he was still performing at live shows in his wheelchair, relaying his experience of MS in the form of jokes and stories for the audience. Pryor provided important insights into the disease while making people laugh and inspiring the next generation of comics.
Richard Pryor died in 2005 after a heart attack. However, he remains one of the most well-known celebrities to have maintained a successful and influential career while living with MS.
Walter Williams, a founding member of the music group The O’Jays, has been living with MS since 1983.
He first experienced symptoms while on tour, but doctors initially found it difficult to identify the disease. After receiving a diagnosis of MS, he kept this news private for almost 30 years, during which he continued to tour and perform.
Williams later admitted that he experienced some difficulties when performing the elaborate dance moves during the shows, but he always kept the beat and remained professional.
He made taking care of his body a top priority, exercising regularly and following a balanced, healthful diet to help strengthen his body and counter the effects of MS. Now, at over 70 years old, Williams has been able to maintain his performance schedule and stay active with the help of medication and lifestyle changes.
He is also a spokesperson for the MS drug Avonex, which he credits with keeping him relapse-free.
Share on PinterestSelma Blair announced her MS diagnosis in 2018.
Selma Blair, who is famous for her roles in the movies Legally Blonde and Cruel Intentions, announced her MS diagnosis on Instagram.
At the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar party, Blair made her first public appearance since her diagnosis and used a customized leather cane.
On her Instagram account, Blair provides frank insight into how to handle life on a film set with MS.
“I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken GPS. But, we are doing it. And I laugh, and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely, but I will do my best.”
When announcing the diagnosis, she thanked the people who provide support, step in to help her around set, and help her change her clothes between scenes.
Selma continues to work and perform regularly, and she has become an important public figure in the MS community.
Best known for his popular talk show, Montel Williams announced his MS diagnosis to the world in 1999.
Williams received a diagnosis of relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) at the age of 43 years. He experienced immense pain and severe depression.
With the love and support of his family, he dedicated himself to finding out as much as he could about MS. He launched the Montel Williams MS Foundation to help fund research on the disease.
Williams also focused on changing his lifestyle. He now pays particular attention to the labels on food products and avoids sugar, salt, and highly processed foods. Although he has always been active, Williams now makes exercise a priority and works out every day.
His MS foundation is no longer operational, but Williams launched an online health and fitness show in 2013. He has also been a long-term supporter of medical marijuana, crediting it with helping relieve his constant pain, and has started a medical cannabis company called LenitivLabs.
Montel Williams does still experience pain, and he uses medication to help manage the disease. However, he continues to enjoy life, even taking up snowboarding, and is determined not to let MS control him.
Doctors diagnosed country singer Clay Walker with MS in 1996 following the release of his fourth album and the birth of his daughter. He was 26 years old at the time, and his music career was taking off.
Walker’s initial prognosis suggested that he would need to use a wheelchair and could only expect to live another 8 years. However, thanks to appropriate medication and preventive lifestyle choices, he has been in remission since 1998 and remains a vocal advocate for MS awareness.
In 2003, he started Band Against MS, a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing educational information to people living with MS and raising funds to help find a cure.
Walker has sold over 11 million albums and had 11 number one singles, and he currently shows no signs of slowing down or stopping anytime soon.
He follows a healthful, organic diet and an exercise program as well as vigilantly sticking to his drug regimen. Walker continues to be vocal in the fight for a cure for MS, and the National MS Society awarded him their Ambassador of the Year in 2005.
Share on PinterestMS went into remission during pregnancy for Jamie-Lynn Sigler.
Actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler is probably most well-known for playing Meadow Soprano on the television show “The Sopranos.” She found out about her MS at 20 years of age while working on the show.
Her symptoms included a weaker right side of the body and difficulty walking for long periods. Sigler hid her condition for years, not sure how to accept the diagnosis or talk to others about her experiences.
Today, as a wife and mother, she has not let her diagnosis slow her down. While pregnant, her disease went into complete remission, and she was able to deliver a healthy baby. She was symptom-free for an extended period but has dealt with symptoms very similar to those of fatigue for the last decade.
Although she may move more slowly or need a few extra minutes of rest on some days, she looks forward to expanding her family in the future, if possible.
In addition to leading a healthful lifestyle, she has also used medications and infusions over the last few years. With the help of Tecfidera, an oral medication, her symptoms have been stable and her MS manageable for more than 6 years.
Sigler looks forward to watching her son grow, spending time with her husband, and living life on her terms.
Famous People Who Have or Had Multiple Sclerosis
- Adam Riedy – US Speed Skater
- Alan Osmond
- Alastair Hignell
- Alison Peebles – Actress most famous for her Taggart role
- Annette Funicello
- April Arvan – Basketball Coach
- Barbara Jordan
- Betty Cuthbert – Olympic Gold Medallist, Sprinting
- Beverly Graham – singer, charity worker
- Bobby Thompson – Banjoist
- Brenda Gildehaus – champion BMX bike rider
- Brian Irvine – Scottish soccer player
- Bruno Tassan Din – Italian publisher
- Bryan Forbes – actor, writer, director (married to Nanette Newman)
- Carl Laemmle, Jr.
- Carrel Cowan-Ricks
- Cathy Weis – Dancer
- Charlie Courtauld – British newspaper columnist (Independent on Sunday)
- Chrystal Gomes – stand up comedienne
- Cindy O’Connor – Poet
- Clay Walker – Country and western singer
- Clifford T.Ward – Singer/songwriter
- Clive Burr
- Dan Carnevale – American Footballer
- Danny Wallace – ex Southampton and Manchester United Footballer
- Danny Wallace – Soccer Player
- David “Squiggy” Lander
- David “Teddy” Thomas – Cricketer
- David Humm
- David Maclean – UK Conservative MP – Chief Whip
- Dean Singleton – Newspaper Magnate
- Deanna Davis – Basketball player and coach
- Deborah Bruening – writer
- Deborah Downey – Cabaret Performer
- Denise Davis – Singer
- Diana Markham – Novelist
- Donal Coghlan – singer/songwriter
- Donna Fargo
- Doug Robinson – Novelist
- Emily Mann – director and playwright
- Eric Simons – mountaineer
- Ernie McAlister – US Politician
- Eve Hayes – actress
- Exene Cervenka
- Fausto Rocha – Brazilian TV Actor
- Fiona MacTaggart – British Politician (Labour MP for Slough)
- Frank DuBois – New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture 1989-, champion teamroper
- Fred Hughes – Andy Warhol’s financeer and manager
- Frieda Inescort – actress
- Guido Crepax – Italian comic
- Hal Ketchum – Country & Western Singer
- Heinrich Heine – German poet (1797-1856) posthumously diagnosed with MS
- Henry Steele – Basketball Player
- Ivalio Iordanov – Bulgarian International soccer player
- Jack Osbourne
- Jackie Bertone – percussionist for Beach Boys
- Jackie Waldman – Author and motivational speaker
- Jacqueline Creed Archer – Civil rights activist
- Jacqueline du Pre – cellist
- Jacques Raverat
- James LaRocca – Guitarist with MS
- James Scofield – poet
- Javier Artero – Spanish soccer player
- Jennifer Huget – Washington Post journalist
- Jim Oelschlager – financeer and philanathropist
- Jim Poulin – Basketball Coach
- Jimmy Heuga – Olympic skier
- Joan Didion
- Joan Sweeney – children’s author
- Joe Torsella
- John Medica
- John Mythen – cartoonist and writer
- John Pageler – author
- John Robson – Footballer
- Johnny Killen – 1960s singer
- Jonathan Katz
- Joseph Hartzler – Chief prosecutor for the Oklahoma bombing case
- Judy Graham – author
- Judy Grahn – poet
- Karen G. Stone – Author
- Kathryn Lindskoog – author
- Keith Snyder – composer, performer, and author
- Kelly Sutton – racing driver
- Ken Novak – Basketball coach
- Kevin Stevenson – Singer/Guitarist
- Khiawatha Downey – American Footballer
- Larry Tucker – Film and TV writer and producer (incl. The Monkees, Alice B. Toklas and Bob & Carol)
- Laura Mitchell – Public policy analyst, consultant and writer
- Laurie Elyse
- Lena Horne – Actress and singer
- Lisa Peck – Mountain bike rider (5th in 2000 Masters World Mountain Bike Championships)
- Lola Folana – singer
- Louise Arters – Actress (one of the Sparkle Twins)
- Luca Coscione – Italian Politician
- Lucien Herve – Architectural Photographer
- Lydwina of Schieden – Dutch patron Saint of Ice Skaters (1400AD).
- Madeline Rhue – Actress
- Maggie Weder – Golfer
- Margaret Leighton
- Marianne Gingrich – ex-wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
- Martin Bruch – Photographer
- Mary Mullarkey – Colorado State Supreme Court Chief Justice
- Maureen Manley – Olympic Cyclist
- Maxine Mesinger – Newspaper gossip columnist, Houston Chronicle
- Melanie Lawson – Anchorwoman, Ch.13 Houston
- Michael Blake – Hollywood screenwriter, “Dances with Wolves”
- Michael Frimkess – Potter
- Michael R. Duval – Investment Banker and White House Lawyer Under Nixon and Ford
- Michel Dupuis – Canadian football player (linebacker for Ottawa, Winnipeg & Toronto)
- Miquel Martm i Pol – Catalan poet
- Mitch Terpstra – Athlete and Althetics Coach
- Montel Williams
- Nancy Mairs – novelist
- Natalie Mandzhavidze – NASA Physicist
- Neil Cavuto – lead anchor on Fox News Channel
- Nicky Broyd – BBC Radio Journalist
- Nicola Griffith – Author
- Norah Vincent – Journalist
- Paul Novoselick – Chronicle staff writer and columnist
- Paul Wellstone
- Paul Willey – Virtual Golf Champion
- Paul Wolfskehl – 19th century German industrialist and amateur mathematician
- Rachelle Breslow – author
- Rich Warden – Racecar Driver
- Richard Berghammer – Wildlife Painter
- Richard Cohen – journalist (married to actress Meridith Viera)
- Richard Pryor
- Richard Radtke – Scientist and Winner Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering
- Robert “Wingnut” Weaver – Actor
- Robin Gurr – poet
- Roger MacDougall – British playwright
- Roland ‘Chubby’ Cloutier – TV Entertainer
- Roman Gabriel – American football player (Los Angeles Rams 1962-72)
- Ronald Rogers – Concert Pianist
- Ronnie Lane – musician with The Faces (Rod Stewart’s old band)
- Sarah P. Gibbs – Biologist – Winner of 2003 Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal
- Sean Coman – (Sean Donahue) – Californian disk jockey
- Selma Blair – (Selma Blair Beitner, June 23, 1972) – Actress
- Sharon Summerall – model (married to Don Henley (singer with The Eagles)
- Sir Augustus Frederic D’Este – (1794-1848) – Possible 1st documented case of MS.
- Stan Belinda – baseball player
- Stanley Elkin – writer
- Stanley Knowles – Canadian Politician (1942-1984)
- Stephanie Millward
- Stephanie Stephens – golfer
- Stephen White – Author
- Steven Mueller
- Stewart Henry – UK disc-jockey
- Susan Kisslinger – Author
- Tamia – R&B singer (Grammy Nominee)
- Teri Garr – Actress (Young Frankenstein, Tootsie, Close Encounters and others)
- Valerie Jankowski Skrabut – artist and musician.
- Victor Willing – Artist
- Victoria Williams
- Vince Smith – Country singer.
- Wally Wakefield – Ski jumper and sports columnist
- Wayne Dobson – magician
- Wendy Carol Roth – Television producer, writer and Advocate for the Disabled
- Wendy Lill – Canadian Politician
- William Newman – artist
- Yury Tynianov – Russian Novelist and literary critic.
List of Famous People with MS, loosely ranked by fame and popularity. Multiple sclerosis or MS is an inflammatory disease that damages the nerve cells located in the brain and spinal cord. MS causes a variety of physical and mental impairments that can flair up during attacks. The cause of MS is unknown and there is no known cure for the disease.
Who is the most famous person with MS? Richard Pryor tops our list. The comedian was diagnosed with MS in 1986 and the condition forced him into a motorized scooter in the 90s. Pryor can be seen using this vehicle in the David Lynch film “Lost Highway” which would be Pryor’s last film appearance. Prior also suffered from heart disease and died of a heart attack in 2005. Other film stars who suffer from MS include Teri Garr, Annette Funicello and David Lander.
Talk show host Montel Williams has been an outspoken advocate for MS since he was diagnosed in 1999. Williams even founded the non-profit MS Foundation and he advocates for the use of medical marijuana to treat MS. Williams has stated that snowboarding has been the best therapy to treat his disease.
What do you think of all the famous people who have suffered from MS? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
“They help demystify disability & broaden awareness.” That is what journalist, Victoria Brownworth, Tweeted of celebrities who share their stories of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Specifically, she was referring to Cruel Intentions star, Selma Blair, who revealed her diagnosis to her 700,000+ Instagram followers in a heartfelt post. Celebrities are unique in their ability to raise awareness of diseases and Blair is not alone in revealing that she is living with MS. Here are the stories of three others who have helped draw attention to the disease.
Learn about the different types of MS here:
- Multiple Sclerosis: What You Need to Know About the Different Types of MS
“I have probably had this incurable disease for 15 years.”
Selma Blair revealed she is living with multiple sclerosis in an emotional Instagram post, in which she describes some of the symptoms she is dealing with, thanked those close to her for their support, and expressed her hopes for the future.
In doing so, she has undoubtedly brought the disease to the attention of many fans who may not know a lot about the condition.
Awareness celebrities bring to chronic conditions can be a powerful tool in tackling the stigma surrounding them and lead to a greater level of understanding. In revealing she lives with MS, Blair joins a number of other celebrities who have made their diagnosis public and who have subsequently become advocates for everyone living with the condition.
Ultimately, the more everyone knows about chronic – and often invisible – conditions, such as MS, the more people living with them have the confidence to be open and honest, without fear of judgement or career consequences.
Here are the stories of three other public figures who have revealed they are living with MS.
London-born Jack Osbourne became a household name in the US when The Osbournes, a reality TV show documenting the hectic life of his family, aired on MTV in 2002.
MyTherapy: Helping ease your life with MS
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Back then he was known as a rebellious teenager, while his battle with addiction to painkillers when he was 17 years old was also aired.
His successful recovery, which included quitting drinking, culminated with the birth of his first child in 2012. Just three months later, Osbourne announced that he had been diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), having temporarily lost vision in his right eye.
He told British magazine, Hello!: “The timing was so bad. I’d just had a baby, work was going great… I kept thinking: ‘Why now?’”
After initial anger and sadness at his diagnosis, Osbourne adopted the motto ‘adapt and overcome’ and has since become a prominent advocate for MS awareness.
He teamed up with Teva Neuroscience to launch You Don’t Know Jack About MS, which aims to ‘dispel myths, educate and help patients manage their disease.’
The website chronicles how Osbourne has managed MS over the past six years, particularly focusing on his diet and fitness regime, which included featuring on Dancing with the Stars in 2013. His participation on the show, in which he came third, also helped draw attention to MS.
He is still a vocal advocate, motivated by his desire to ‘remove the stigma associated with the disease that has prevented so many people from pursuing their dreams.’
Jamie-Lynn Sigler, best known for her role as the daughter of mob boss, Tony Soprano, in The Sopranos, lived with MS for 15 years before revealing her diagnosis in 2016.
Sigler recalls the time when, as a 20-year-old, she consulted a medical professional within the entertainment industry. She told Today: “They said, ‘I’m going to pretend you didn’t tell me that. I don’t think you should ever tell anyone that you have this disease. People will limit you, people will judge you, and people won’t hire you.’ And I took that advice. I was 20 years old and I was scared.”
Despite the few castmates she did confide in encouraging her to reveal her diagnosis, she was afraid to so and was concerned it would ruin her career.
Other posts you may be interested in on the MyTherapy blog:
- At a Loss for Words: What Not to Say to Someone Living with MS
- Multiple Sclerosis Blogs: Eight of the Best
Like Osbourne, Sigler lives with the relapsing-remitting form of MS. With treatment, she was able to control the symptoms enough to continue with her career. And when symptoms did flare up, she blamed a bad back for her limitations.
After The Sopranos finished, Sigler considered quitting acting, so she would never have to reveal her MS publicly.
However, after her hypnotherapist told her that her secret was toxic and she needed to relieve herself from the shame and guilt of hiding her struggle, Sigler decided to go public.
The timing also coincided with her marriage to Cutter Dykstra, which she saw as an opportunity for a fresh start and outlook. Her son, Beau, was 2 years old at the time, which also motivated Sigler; she did not want to burden him with her secret as he got older and wanted to be an example of strength to him.
Sigler revealed her condition in an interview with People magazine. Since doing so, she has received waves of support and her career has continued to flourish, while she believes her health has improved as she no longer carries the stress and fear she did previously.
Sigler’s story highlights how the stigma of MS and misunderstanding of it can prevent those living with it from speaking out. However, the response to the news since she revealed her diagnosis, along with her continued success, shows that significant progress is being made.
She now speaks openly in the media about her MS, discusses it on social media, and is active in raising money for the MS Society and Race to Erase MS.
Ann Romney’s husband, Mitt Romney, may have lost the 2012 presidential election to Barack Obama, but she was able to raise an enormous amount of awareness on the campaign trail.
Romney was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 1998, at the age of 49, having first experienced symptoms the previous year. She was told, to her dismay, there was no treatment as her symptoms “weren’t too bad.”
It was only when Romney met Dr. Howard Weiner, who took a more aggressive approach to treatment, that her symptoms were kept under better control.
It was on the campaign trail that she was able to draw more attention to the condition. In Florida, she spoke with another lady living with MS and discussed treatment, diet, and the effect on her ability to play tennis. She mentioned MS speeches and discussed it in an interview on ABC.
Shortly after the election, Romney was having a routine check-up when she asked Dr. Weiner about the latest research. He told her about a potential breakthrough in treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and how drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease may help with other neurological conditions.
The news prompted Romney to dedicate her time to a new center focused on research into those two conditions and MS. Two years later, the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases opened at the Brigham and Women Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
The following year she released a book, the title of which – In This Together: My Story – is based on the words her husband said the day she was diagnosed. In it, she is remarkably candid about the effects of MS when it comes to her family (Romney has five children and 24 grandchildren), lifestyle, and a wide range of other topics.
The vast wealth of the Romney family was often used as a stick to beat them with during the 2012 election. Regardless of your political persuasions, however, it is fair to say that Ann Romney has used both her financial clout and public persona as a force for good when it comes to MS research and advocacy.
The Power of Celebrity Advocacy
Aside from MS, household names such as Lady Gaga, Michael J. Fox, Selena Gomez, and Kim Kardashian have opened up about living with a range of chronic conditions.
The unique position these celebrities are in means the exposure they bring to such conditions helps tackle the stigma, raises money for research, and gives countless people the confidence to be open about living with a chronic condition.
Take a look at some of the other posts on the MyTherapy blog:
- MS & Uhthoff’s Phenomenon: Coping with Heat Sensitivity
Selma Blair: Cruel Intentions star reveals MS diagnosis
Image copyright AFP/Getty Image caption The actress said she has had symptoms for “15 years at least”
US actress Selma Blair has revealed she has multiple sclerosis (MS) in an Instagram post.
The 46-year-old Cruel Intentions star said she was diagnosed in August but has had symptoms for years.
“I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things,” she wrote, calling the news “overwhelming in the beginning”.
Multiple sclerosis is an incurable condition affecting the brain or spinal cord, causing vision, balance and muscle problems.
According to the UK’s NHS, it is two to three times more likely in women than men, and is usually diagnosed in people in their 20s and 30s.
The cause of the condition is still unknown.
Blair is set to appear in the Netflix programme Another Life, and said the “profound” help she received from costume designer Allisa Swanson had inspired her to come forward with the story.
In her post she said she was “in the thick of it” but hoped to give hope to others by talking about the condition.
Despite the news, the actress said she was relieved to finally receive the diagnosis.
“My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken GPS. But we are doing it,” she wrote.
“I want to play with my son again. I want to walk down the street and ride my horse. I have MS and I am ok.”
Blair also starred in Legally Blonde and the Hellboy series.
There is no cure for MS, but treatment can help manage symptoms. This may include painkillers or drugs to reduce nerve inflammation, physical therapy to ease muscle stiffness, or medication to slow the condition’s progression.
- My quest to stop my MS in its tracks
- ‘How I’m feeling after my MS ‘body reboot”
On social media, many living with the condition sent support to Blair – among them journalist Victoria Brownworth, who thanked her for helping to demystify it.
“I was dxd with MS at 30,” she wrote. “I can so relate to how #SelmaBlair feels.”
Actress turned activist Rose McGowan also tweeted her best wishes, writing: “You are a stellar being, Selma Blair. Your truth and honesty will help so many. Blessings on your journey.”
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How are readers coping with the condition?
A selection of your messages on the subject of MS:
Tash Castle, Lincolnshire
Tash says she was diagnosed with MS in February 2018, at the age of 46.
She says that while initially she was upset by the diagnosis, she “very soon realised that it is not the end of the world,” and avoids the attitude of “being too woe is me”.
Tash looked online for support: “I’ve visited a lot of forums and found them to be helpful.”
Krystyna says that she “resonates so deeply with Selma Blair’s Instagram post”.
“I’m a mum for the first time and becoming a parent is challenging when you already cope with issues such as fatigue,” she says.
However, Krystyna urges those with MS not to despair: “If people are understanding, you can get through it however tough.”
Karen Vogelsang, York
“I had an MS flare up at 23 in 1988,” Karen says. “I lost the feeling from the waste down for 8 weeks, which was very scary.”
Karen says that the diagnosis “hit hard at first”.
She has “found cycling is good therapy” for managing her symptoms.
Sarah Iveson, Nottingham
Coming to terms with having MS has been a “journey full of crying and fear,” says Sarah.
However, hearing other people speaking about having the illness has helped her feel more comfortable about her diagnosis.
Sarah says that reading Selma Blair’s story “really helps” and made her “want to stand up and talk” about what she goes through with the condition.
Multiple Celebrities with Multiple Sclerosis, Michelle Obama and the Death of Captain Beefheart
During her speech at the Democratic National Convention in August of 2008, Michelle Obama shared her experiences with multiple sclerosis: Mrs. Obama’s father was diagnosed with the disease when he was in his early thirties. As she said:
“My Dad was our rock. Although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early thirties, he was our provider, our champion, our hero. But as he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, it took him longer to get dressed in the morning. But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing — even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my Mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder.”
Michele Obama is, of course, only one of many people whose lives have been touched by MS. Here’s a partial list of entertainers with MS: actors Terri Garr, David “Squiggy” Lander, TV personality Montel Williams, Annette Funicello, singers Lena Horne and Clay Walker, comedian Richard Pryor. MS affects an estimated 300,000 people in the United States and is the most common cause of neurological disability in young adults.
Last week, it was reported that Don Van Vliet, otherwise know by his rock legend persona Captain Beefheart (shown on the cover of Rolling Stone, May 1970) passed away at the age of 69 from complications of MS after many years with the disease. According to Rolling Stone, “… the incomparable Captain Beefheart who, together with his Magic Band, rose to prominence in the 1960s with a totally unique style of blues-inspired, experimental rock & roll. This would ultimately secure Van Vliet’s place in music history as one of the most original recording artists of his time. After two decades in the spotlight as an avant-garde composer and performer, Van Vliet retired from performing to devote himself wholeheartedly to painting and drawing. Like his music, Van Vliet’s lush paintings are the product of a truly rare and unique vision.” DID YOU KNOW?
- If you search for ‘multiple sclerosis’ in the PubMed database at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, you’ll find 47,462 peer-reviewed publications in the biomedical literature as of today.
- In 2011, the NIH will spend about $144 million for research on this disease.
- There are a total of 685 clinical trials studying new diagnostics, drug therapies and other interventions for MS.
- The risk of developing MS is, in part. genetically determined and testing is available for susceptibility genes that have been identified through genome-wide association studies.
The American actor Selma Blair has been praised for speaking candidly about having multiple sclerosis (MS).
In an Instagram post the 46-year-old Cruel Intentions star said she had been officially diagnosed in August but had experienced symptoms for years.
“I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken GPS,” she wrote. “But we are doing it. And I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best.”
Multiple sclerosis is a lifelong condition, which can affect the brain or spinal cord. It can cause a wide range of symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.
According to the NHS, it is two to three times more likely in women than men and is usually diagnosed in people in their 20s and 30s.
Blair, who will appear in the Netflix series Another Life, said the “profound” help she received from costume designer Allisa Swanson had inspired her to speak openly about her condition.
“he carefully gets my legs in my pants, pulls my tops over my head, buttons my coats and offers her shoulder to steady myself. I have #multiplesclerosis,” she wrote.
“I am in the thick of it but I hope to give some hope to others. And even to myself. You can’t get help unless you ask. It can be overwhelming in the beginning. You want to sleep. You always want to sleep. So I don’t have answers. You see, I want to sleep. But I am a forthcoming person and I want my life to be full somehow.”
There is no cure for MS but symptoms can sometimes be managed with painkillers or drugs to reduce nerve inflammation, physical therapy to ease muscle stiffness or medication to slow progression.
Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said many people living with MS would be grateful for Blair’s decision to speak out.
“She’ll raise vital awareness of a condition that affects more than 100,000 people in the UK,” she said. “MS is unpredictable and different for everyone so, as the actress revealed, you can live with symptoms for years and not receive a diagnosis.”
There is no cure for MS but thereare a range of treatments available for the relapsing form of the condition, as well as new research-led developments happening all the time, Edwards added.
According to the NHS, more than eight in 10 people with MS are diagnosed with the relapsing remitting type. A person with relapsing remitting MS will have episodes of new or worsening symptoms, which can occur without warning but are sometimes associated with periods of illness or stress. These can worsen and last for days, weeks or months, then slowly improve over a similar time period.
“What’s most encouraging about Selma’s post is the attitude of her colleagues. Having the right support around you is crucial because when your employer takes time to understand MS, you can enjoy a full working life for as long as you want or are able to.”
Blair discussed the support she had received from her producers, writing: “By the grace of the lord, and will power and the understanding producers at Netflix , I have a job. A wonderful job.” Her producer Noreen Halpern assured her “everyone has something”. Blair added that all members of the crew had been supportive.
Many living with the condition sent words of support to Blair on social media, including journalist Victoria Brownworth, who wrote on Twitter:
Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX)
I was dxd with MS at 30.
I can so relate to how #SelmaBlair feels.
I am grateful to all celebs who share their dx stories.
They help demystify #disability & broaden awareness. #CripTheVote
Selma Blair emotionally reveals #multiplesclerosis diagnosis: https://t.co/qfRzdxcl5k
October 21, 2018
The actor and activist Rose McGowan also tweeted her best wishes, writing: “You are a stellar being, Selma Blair. Your truth and honesty will help so many. Blessings on your journey.”
- What is multiple sclerosis?
- What causes MS?
- Is MS fatal? Can MS be treated?
- What Type of doctor specializes in MS? How is MS Diagnosed?
- Who gets MS? How many people have MS?
- Does MS or its treatments pose any risks to becoming pregnant?
- Can I inherit MS?
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis, also referred to as “MS,” is a neurological disorder affecting the nerves of the brain and spinal cord. MS is thought to be an “autoimmune” disease, which means that a person’s own immune system is attacking his or her body. This attack damages the protective covering to the nerves (myelin) and eventually the nerves (axons) as well.
MS is most often diagnosed in young adults, and symptoms can range from visual changes, numbness, and vertigo, to bladder and bowel problems, weakness, and spasticity (muscle tightness), among other symptoms. Individuals may also experience emotional difficulties, such as depression, or cognitive issues, such as forgetfulness. For most people with early MS, symptoms tend to flare up (“relapse”) and subside (“remit”) for long periods of time.
For more information, please visit our MS Overview section of MSAA’s website.
What causes MS?
While we know that MS is not contagious, an exact cause of this disease has yet to be determined. Most researchers believe that more than one factor is involved in the development of MS. One popular theory involves a slow-acting virus, such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or measles, which could remain dormant (inactive) for many years before contributing to the development of MS in genetically susceptible people.
MS is not hereditary, but having more than one family member diagnosed with MS is not uncommon. Numerous studies have shown that this increased risk among family members is a result of sharing DNA, and not a result of sharing the same environment. Therefore, genes play a role to some degree.
Additionally, researchers are now looking at a vitamin D deficiency (vitamin D may be derived from both sunlight and diet), along with the types and amounts of fat intake in one’s diet, as possible contributing factors to MS. Cigarette smoking is another factor that can be involved in the development of MS. It not only increases one’s risk of developing MS, but also increases the rate of progression of one’s MS.
For more information, please visit our Possible Causes of MS section of MSAA’s website.
Is MS fatal? Can MS be treated?
Only a small percentage of patients experience a rapidly progressive type of MS, which may cause more significant health issues early in the disease. Some individuals, particularly those who are significantly inactive, may experience the typical complications of a prolonged chronic illness (such as infection or pneumonia). Additionally, a recent study has shown that for individuals with relapsing forms of MS, those who begin treatment early with a disease-modifying therapy and stay on the therapy, may live longer than those who are not on treatment.
With various adjustments made along the way, most individuals with MS may look forward to a full and productive life. As for anyone, other health factors play a role in determining an individual’s quality of life as well as life expectancy. Examples of such health factors include diet, exercise, whether or not someone smokes, alcohol consumption, and family history of disease.
While no cure for MS has been found, 18 FDA-approved drugs are now available for the long-term treatment of MS. These have been shown to reduce the number and severity of MS flare-ups, along with possibly slowing disease progression. Many more experimental MS therapies are being studied in clinical trials, and these may lead to more treatment options — and possibly a cure — for MS.
What Type of Doctor Specializes in MS? How is MS Diagnosed?
Since MS is a neurological condition, it is usually diagnosed and treated by a neurologist. Other professionals specializing in neurology in conjunction with another area of medicine – such as radiology (neuroradiologist), ophthalmology (neurophthalmologist), and psychology (neuropsychologist) — may also assist with one’s diagnosis and ongoing treatment plan.
Because the symptoms of early MS can come and go, and because a single test is not yet available to determine if one has MS, getting a diagnosis is often difficult. Several appointments and tests (to exclude other conditions) may be necessary.
Tools used to help diagnose and evaluate MS include:
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
- lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
- evoked potentials (EP) tests
- Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS)
- Functional System (FS) scale
- MS Functional Composite (MSFC) scale
For more information, please see the “Diagnosing MS and Evaluating Disease Activity” section of our website.
Who gets MS? How many people have MS?
Most people with MS experience their first symptoms and are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 50. Previously, MS in younger children was extremely rare. Referred to as “Pediatric MS,” the diagnosis of MS at a young age is on the rise. Researchers do not know if this is an indication of people developing MS at an earlier age, or if this is a result of greater disease awareness and more sensitive diagnostic procedures.
Women are two to three times more likely to develop MS versus men. Caucasians, especially those of European or Scandinavian ancestry, are at a much greater risk of MS than those of African heritage.
Individuals growing up in regions closer to the equator have a lower incidence of MS. The rate of MS increases as distance from the equator increases. This environmental factor may relate to diet, exposure to sunlight, and/or other lifestyle traits.
Nearly one million individuals are living with MS in the United States. This new prevalence figure was published in 2019 and is more than double the previous estimate of 400,000 affected people in the United States. Estimates for the global MS population typically range between 2.3 and 2.5 million.
The North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS) has an MS registry with an active database of more than 35,000 individuals with MS. If you are interested in learning more or becoming a part of this registry, please visit narcoms.org.
For more information on Who Gets MS, please refer to this section under the “MS Overview” section of MSAA’s website.
Does MS or its treatments pose any risks to becoming pregnant?
Many of those diagnosed with MS are young women with plans of having children at some point in their future. The good news is that MS does not affect fertility, and pregnancies progress “normally” (that is, having the same benefits and risks as someone without MS).
For most women with MS, MS symptoms often stabilize or improve during pregnancy. Unfortunately, 20-to-40 percent of women have a relapse following delivery, so new mothers will need to plan for more rest and assistance during the first few months. Disease progression and long-term risk of additional relapses are not affected by pregnancy.
Some of the medications taken for MS can increase the risk of miscarriage and are transmitted in breast milk. Women considering pregnancy should discuss their medications with their neurologist in advance. Some medications may need to be discontinued for a few months before attempting to become pregnant.
Having a child is an important decision for any person or couple. With MS, parents need to consider that fatigue and other symptoms may affect the amount of activity the mother may be able to perform with the child or children in their younger years. Assistance from others – such as family and friends – may be needed at certain times. Before making the commitment, individuals and couples may want to discuss these pregnancy-related issues with their healthcare team.
Can I inherit MS?
Many people ask if MS may be inherited. While MS in not hereditary, individuals may be “genetically susceptible,” increasing their risk of MS. This risk is slight, with only a three-to-four percent chance of a child (with a parent who has MS) being diagnosed with MS sometime in his or her future.
Researchers believe that genetics are only one piece to the puzzle, and other factors (such as common viruses, environment, diet, etc.) are also necessary to develop MS. Additionally, MS research is making great strides toward identifying causes and fine-tuning effective treatments.
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