"There has been a steady increase in the number of MS cases in the last two-three years. Even children are prone to this disorder and are showing MS symptoms," said Arabinda Mukherjee, professor of neurology, Vivekananda Institute of Medical Sciences, Kolkata.
"The reason why MS cases have grown in India is because of better diagnosis through MRI scans. It existed earlier as well, but it was not diagnosed properly," said Mukherjee.
MS is an auto-immune disease in which the body attacks its own cells and tissues. The most common symptoms are numbness, weakness in the limbs, sudden loss of balance, blurred vision and muscle fatigue. There is no specific cure for the disease and current treatments use the disease modification approach to hinder recurrent attacks and disability.
Genetic and environmental factors are known to contribute to MS, but a specific cause for the disease cannot be identified.
There are two lakh MS patients in India, with most being in the 20 to 30 age group.
"The disorder is not as common in India as it is in Europe and other parts of the world. However, we still observe one to two new cases every year. Most of them are in the 20 to 30 age group. MS was thought to be a disease of the developed countries, and not a tropical disease, but now that has changed," said Mukherjee.
"MS can range in intensity from being relatively benign to devastating. Because diagnosis of MS is difficult, especially during the earlier stages as symptoms are indistinct, early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to slow disease progression and minimise associated disability, particularly because the condition can cause irreversible damage," said Ashish Dutta, consultant neurologist of the Institute of Neurosciences, Kolkata.
Peer support is of utmost importance in helping MS patients cope with its irreversible nature.
Anuradha Goswami, honorary secretary, Multiple Sclerosis Society of India, Kolkata, said: "There's no cure for MS, so dealing with a diagnosis can be tough but with community help and support, many people with the condition can go on to live full lives. Since public awareness about this disorder is very limited, there is need for more awareness and education in the community."
May 29 is World MS Day.