Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an incurable neurological disease, affects 2.3 million people around the world, between 50,000 to 100,000 Latin Americans, and as many as 20,000 Mexicans, experts say.
Since 2009, the final Wednesday in May has been observed as World Multiple Sclerosis Day which targets young adults, primarily women, between the ages of 20 and 40. According to specialist Treviño Frenk, one out of every two women will contract the paralyzing disease.
“This is a chronic degenerative disease which is the second cause of disability in young adults because it can take up to 10 years to be diagnosed," Frenk, a member of the Mexican Academy of Neurology, told EFE.
“Multiple sclerosis occurs due to a damage to the central nervous system, specifically to myelin, the protective covering that surrounds the neurons, altering the basic neurological functions such as balance, sight, loss of sensibility in some extremity and control of sphincters," he added.
A timely diagnosis and immediate treatment are the only secrets to controlling the disease before any irreversible effects ensue, Frenk said. However, patient treatment can cost anywhere between 15,000 to 25,000 pesos (US$ 760 to US$1270) per month. With the added cost of medication, some patients spend around 6000 pesos (US$400) daily.
According to Veronica Rivas, a medical specialist the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery, some 50 percent of those diagnosed are without social security.
In Mexico, the average household income rides at a steady 13,400 pesos (US$840), medical treatment is almost impossible.
“Many patients see no benefit of taking treatment, but it is essential to stay controlled to avoid future damage to their most basic abilities," he said, adding that in order to maintain the necessary income, at least 50 percent of those diagnosed will continue to work for another 10 years.
"The problem is that, due to disability, many people are left without work," he said.
Although there are some support funds in place to assist with the financial burden, Rivas says these aren’t enough.
“For the last three years, we have had a support fund for patients with multiple sclerosis assigned by the Gender Equality Commission (of the Chamber of Deputies).
"With this support, they can buy medicines every year. Last year we were given 11 million pesos; the problem is that we have around 500 patients with the disease and the reality is that it is not enough,” she said.
According to Rivas, if left untreated, within ten years, patients will require a cane and eventually a wheelchair.