Increase in number of young Scots with multiple sclerosis


HEALTH chiefs have revealed a seven-fold increase in the number of young Scots struck down by multiple sclerosis.

The country’s biggest health board, Greater Glasgow, diagnosed 20 people under the age of 30 with the incurable neurological condition last year.

The board, which covers a quarter of the population, diagnosed just three people in the same age group in 2007.

Overall, Scottish health boards say that in the past five years there has been a 30% increase in Scots of all ages diagnosed with MS.

Multiple sclerosis is the most common disease of the central nervous system and symptoms include muscle paralysis and loss of balance. Many sufferers are confined to wheelchairs.

Health experts warn that a lack of “sunshine drug” vitamin D and other environmental factors could be to blame for rocketing numbers of younger Scots suffering from MS.

All of Scotland’s health boards were asked to give details of the number of people being diagnosed with MS, broken into age brackets.


NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde revealed 20 people aged 10-29 were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year, up from just three in 2006/7.

It also saw a jump in the number of 30-39-year-olds diagnosed. Last year, 41 people of that age were told they had MS in Greater Glasgow compared with 15 in 2006/07..

Lanarkshire also reported a sudden spike in young people being diagnosed. Last year, nine people under 30 were diagnosed with MS. In 2007 there were no reported cases.

Other health boards refused to give age-specific statistics, but did show big increases in the disease across all age groups.

In Forth Valley 19 people were diagnosed with MS in 2007, compared with 24 last year.

NHS Grampian jumped from 52 to 65 in the same period.

Glasgow saw its overall numbers almost double, from 89 diagnosed in 2007 to 177 last year.

And NHS Lanarkshire had more reported cases than Scotland’s biggest board Glasgow, rising from 206 to 264 in the same five year time frame.

Some boards, including NHS Lothian and NHS Fife only provided information from 2010 onwards.


Dr Anna Williams, Honorary Consultant Neurologist at the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, said: “It could be that people before may have ignored earlier symptoms.

“It could also be because, generally, there are more auto-immune disorders in Scotland. Some people believe it is because we are living in a clean, sterile environment. It has also been linked to a lack of vitamin D.

“In fact, more and more people are concluding that vitamin D may be able to dampen down auto-immune diseases, including multiple sclerosis.”

One in five MS sufferers has a benign form with mild attacks and no permanent disability, while another 15% have a progressive disease that steadily worsens.

The average life expectancy for someone with multiple sclerosis is 35 years after symptoms begin. A rare, acute form of the disease can be fatal within weeks.

Scotland has the highest prevalence of multiple sclerosis in the world. It also has one of the lowest levels of vitamin D, due to a lack of sunshine and a diet low in oily fish.

Stuart Rose, 23, a pupil support assistant from Inverness, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was just 15.

Stuart was diagnosed when he was 15.

Stuart was tested for MS after feeling numbness down the left side of his body while playing underwater hockey with friends, and then experiencing double vision three months later.

“When I was first diagnosed I was 15, and had symptoms since I was 14.

“I felt shocked and upset, but I found that everyone, from my school, to my parents and my friends were all very supportive, which was a great comfort.

“As I have relapsing, remitting MS, symptoms can come and go. I have actually been relapse free for almost three years.

“I think the unpredictability of multiple sclerosis is the hardest part to deal with. I was diagnosed unusually young and it did make me grow up fast in a lot of ways and really think about my future.”

He added:  “When I was first diagnosed I called the MS Society helpline and spoke to somebody for about half and hour. I probably didn’t realise at the time how much it had helped me. It was really, really important and I have had a lot of support from them.

“I have raised £8,500 in fundraising, and I find that running has also helped with my MS symptoms.”

TV star

Earlier this year TV star Jack Osbourne was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease after he lost 60% vision in his right eye.

The extreme sports enthusiast was diagnosed just three weeks after the birth of his first child, daughter Pearl.

Speaking at the time, he said he had initially been angry and upset, but had since adopted an attitude of “adapt and overcome”.

Ed Holloway, Head of Care and Services Research at the MS Society added: “Awareness of MS and its symptoms has certainly increased over the past few years and this had helped to speed up the time it takes for people to get a diagnosis.

“Diagnostic equipment has also improved. The good news about getting a firm diagnosis – rather than being in a period of limbo not knowing what is wrong – is that people can get access to the support they need from the MS Society and the health care system.”

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  1. the statement about life expectancy and MS is not correct. people with MS today have near the same life expectancy as those without. please dont make it worse than it already is!!

    In 1936, only 8% of patients were reported to survive beyond 20 years after onset of illness
    In 1961, over 80% of Multiple Sclerosis patients were reported surviving to 20 years after onset of illness
    2002 – A patient with Multiple Sclerosis can expect to live to average population life-expectancy minus seven years (mean life expectancy – 7 years)

    • See paper
      “Recent gains in clinical multiple sclerosis research”.
      Pubmed 22583434
      This states” In 10-20% of patients, the disease is progressive from onset. Life expectancy of patients after diagnosis with MS is around 35 years, and MS patients die 5-10 years earlier than the general population.”

  2. MS is a chronic INFLAMMATORY condition.
    Vitamin D3 works most effectively as an ANTI INFLAMMATORY agent at 50ng/ml 125nmol/l.
    CityAssays (Birmingham UK NHS Path lab) do POSTAL vitamin d3 tests for £25 or £20 if you bulk buy and share with your friends/family.
    Vitamin D3 is £10 or less from Amazon for 360 x 5000iu capsules
    Most people require 1000iu/daily for each 25lbs they weigh
    Take an EFFECTIVE amount of Vitamin D3 for 3~5 months then retest 25(OH)D and add extra 1000iu daily for each 25nmol/l you remain below .125nmol/l. If you are above 150nmol/l then reduce daily vitamin D intake by 1000iu for each 25nmol/l above 125nmol/l.
    People with higher vitamin D levels are less likely to get MS.
    People with MS who keep vitamin D higher have slower disease progression, fewer flares and a lower level of disability.
    Most people find keeping 25(OH)D at or above 125nmol/l means they have fewer colds/flu/infections and feel less pain.
    They are also less likely to have seasonal allergies.

  3. Whilst I don’t doubt that the number of MS diagnoses is rising, some of the 2006/7 figures seem very low to the point of being inaccurate. Scotland is oftern cited as having the highest prevalence of MS in the world, so for just 3 people to be diagnosed in Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire seems unusual.

  4. Hi Guys,

    Great to the artcile raising awareness of MS and includes some great stats.

    However the section that reads,

    “The average life expectancy for someone with multiple sclerosis is 35 years after symptoms begin. A rare, acute form of the disease can be fatal within weeks.”

    Is wrong and misleading… I would like to know where the stats for this came from. I am not aware of any such data. As I have never been told that MS reduces life expectancy. Off course drugs can have side-effects and other related issues, but these are a small minority.

    Thank you once again for brining the subject of MS into the public domain.


  5. I was diagnosed with MS 8 months ago at the age of 60. I have spent most of my life in the sunny regions here in Texas and consumed milk more than kids I grew up with, but when I was diagnosed with Basal Cell skin cancer (the first time) in 1996, I started using sun block and began wearing long shirts and wide brim hats. When I was diagnosed with Squamous Cell a few years later, I went with a more aggressive UV sun block. In 2011, I was diagnosed Melanoma…. Seems like I have had a history of sun exposure but when I was diagnosed with MS, I began wondering if my exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam (I was sprayed directly by US Air Force aircraft on 3 occasions) contributed to these various ailments.

    I am now on fairly heavy dosing of vitamin D, taking Copaxone and following the latest news on this disease. It certainly seems like a mystery ailment and so sad to read that MS seems to be on the rise with young people.

  6. Read the article on MS with interest but I am at a loss:

    ‘The average life expectancy for someone with multiple sclerosis is 35 years after symptoms begin.’

    As someone with MS and have had so for over 20 years, I have never heard this claim before even from many specialists I have dealt with through out the years.

    Where did you get this information from?

  7. Thank you for your feedback on the article.

    The disputed line “The average life expectancy for someone with multiple sclerosis is 35 years after symptoms begin.” was written after reading many UK and US medical research papers and journals on the subject.

    One such example can be found by reading “Multiple sclerosis” by Compston A and Coles A, 2008.

    This paper was published by the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge Clinical School.

    The above poster also linked to a European medical research paper that also backs up the statement.

    I hope this puts your minds at rest.

    Many thanks for the comments.

    Claire McKim

  8. There has been an increase in MS among young women here in Australia following HPV vaccine (Gardasil). Perhaps this aspect should be considered.

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