Prevalence of MS in Korea
In South Korea, rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) are generally low. This is because the disease is most prevalent in areas where there is lower sun exposure, further from the equator. Unfortunately, a recent study conducted by researchers at Seoul National University Hospital has found the rates of disease are increasing in Korea.
This research team was led by Kim Sung-min and included scientists from 17 hospitals.
What do these researchers believe is the reason for the increasing prevalence? Primarily, they believe that environmental factors such as vitamin D deficiency are at play. Young Koreans often stay indoors for long periods of time, decreasing their exposure to the sun, and increasing rates of obesity. Additionally involved are rises in urbanization and the fact that night shifts are increasing in commonality.
They also reference increases in schoolwork and fast food intake.
Ultimately, they contend-
“As the aspects of the disease have been westernized, there is a need to treat the disease at an early stage more aggressively.”
Another Notable Finding
This study included 266 patients who all had a multiple sclerosis. The researchers wanted to determine whether age had an impact on the severity of disease presentation.
To examine the effect of age, researchers conducted a cerebrospinal fluid test to examine the systemic immune response in patients.
For patients born in the 1950s-
- Opligoclonal bands (OCB) levels = 20%
- Immunoglobulin (IgG) levels = 13%
For patients born in the 1990s-
- Opligoclonal bands (OCB) levels = 54%
- Immunoglobulin (IgG) levels = 75%
Ultimately, this showed that patients who are younger have more of a severe systemic immune responses and more severe encephalitis.
Additionally, each patient in this study underwent an MRI. They found that every decade older a patient was, the number of inflammatory brain lesions increased by 27%.
What Can be Done?
Unfortunately, multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that affects patients their entire lives. However, there are treatments that when taken with compliance can significantly improve outcomes. Thanks to new research initiatives, oral medications have been developed which have enhanced patient compliance.
The researchers from this recent study emphasize that as younger patients are experiencing more severe MS symptoms, these oral medications should be used right from the time of diagnosis. This medicine is highly potent and the scientists believe that by incorporating this type of treatment sooner, patient outcomes will be significantly improved down the line.
You can read more about this study and its findings here.