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4 Things Women Should Know About MS

November 07, 2023

Nearly 1 million people in the United States are living with multiple sclerosis, a chronic inflammatory and neurodegenerative disease.

But does this painful condition affect one gender more than the other?

We asked an expert to weigh in.

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1. MS is more common in women.

By some estimates, MS is nearly three times as common in women than men.

And that doesn’t just go for MS.

“Many autoimmune conditions are more common in women than men, and MS is no exception,” says Brian Wong, MD, an MS specialist with the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute Multiple Sclerosis Center.

In fact, it’s most prevalent in women of childbearing age.

> Related: Why Christina Applegate May Have Missed Early Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

2. There are different types of MS that affect each gender.

MS has many different forms, and they each present differently.

The most common type, relapsing-remitting MS, causes patients to experience relapses where new symptoms present suddenly. These symptoms may persist for weeks or even months before improving.

“Both men and women can present with any subtype of multiple sclerosis,” says Dr. Wong. “But some studies have suggested that men may be more likely to present with primary progressive MS.”

This less common form of MS causes patients to experience gradually worsening symptoms over years.

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3. Female hormones can have an impact.

Especially during pregnancy.

“Hormones do impact MS, and relapses actually tend to be less common during pregnancy,” says Dr. Wong.

But don’t celebrate yet – some women report an increase in symptoms after reaching menopause.

4. At the end of the day, symptoms are still similar in both genders.

Although the types of MS can differ between genders, symptoms tend to be similar.

These include:

  • Strength changes
  • Decreased sensation
  • Pain
  • Cognitive complaints
  • Fatigue
  • Visual symptoms
  • Changes in bowel/bladder function