Apparent changes in the epidemiology and severity of multiple sclerosis


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immunological disease that causes acute inflammatory lesions and chronic inflammation in the CNS, leading to tissue damage and disability. As awareness of MS has increased and options for therapy have come into use, a large amount of epidemiological data have been collected, enabling studies of changes in incidence and disease course over time. Overall, these data seem to indicate that the incidence of MS has increased, but the course of the disease has become milder, particularly in the 25 years since the first disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) became available. A clear understanding of these trends and the reasons for them is important for understanding the factors that influence the development and progression of MS, and for clinical management with respect to prevention and treatment decisions. In this Review, we consider the evidence for changes in the epidemiology of MS, focusing on trends in the incidence of the disease over time and trends in the disease severity. In addition, we discuss the factors influencing these trends, including refinement of diagnostic criteria and improvements in health-care systems that have increased diagnosis in people with mild disease, and the introduction and improvement of DMT.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature reviews. Neurology
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)676-688
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis/diagnosis


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