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Jack Osbourne and Being Diagnosed With Multiple Sclerosis

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Today Jack Osbourne will be doing what around 50 people in the UK do every week - trying to come to terms with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The difference is, Jack will have to do it in the public spotlight.

The story has got people talking about MS, asking the same questions we hear all the time: What is MS? What causes it? Is there a cure? Is it fatal? Is it normal to be diagnosed so young?

In fact, being diagnosed at 26 is not unusual at all. MS is most commonly diagnosed in someone's 20s or 30s.

For some, diagnosis comes as a relief; it explains an array of mysterious symptoms, and opens the door to treatments to manage them. For others, it can be the start of a confusing, upsetting and anxious journey, filled with uncertainty and fear.

Diagnosis usually leads to a search for answers, and many turn to the internet, where there is a lot of good information and bad.

Naturally, I'd point people to the good: the MS Society website has information specifically designed to guide people through a diagnosis, and pointers on where further support can be found, not least on our forum where there is a very lively and supportive community.

To offset some of the bad information also out there, I'd like to use this opportunity to clarify some of the basics about MS:

MS attacks the nervous system. We don't know the cause and there is no cure, but through research funded by donations to the MS Society, we think we may be around 15-20 years from finding one.

It damages our nerves' ability to send messages to different parts of the body, so can cause many symptoms.

Jack Osborne's first symptom was the loss of 60% of his sight in one eye. This is quite common.

One of the most common symptoms is fatigue - not just tiredness but an overwhelming sense of exhaustion which can be very debilitating.

Other symptoms include problems with muscle spasms, balance, bladder, bowel, speech and memory.

Most people have 'relapsing remitting' MS, meaning symptoms are worse during a relapse and better or even completely gone during periods of remission. Others have progressive MS, which gets gradually worse over time. Many will need to use a wheelchair at some point in their lives; many others will not.

All of this makes MS hard to explain, and even harder to really understand.

Around 100,000 people live with it in the UK, but it rarely gets much attention in the press. This can be a real problem for people with MS. It means diagnosis, an already upsetting experience, can be even harder as you have to start from the beginning to understand - and explain to others - what MS is.

Poor awareness can also fuel unhelpful attitudes and stigma, making it harder than it needs to be to live with the condition.

Most people with MS just want to get on and live as full a life as possible. For most this is eminently possible, and is of course easier if family, friends, work colleagues and also strangers show understanding and support. It is reassuring to hear Jack Osbourne is getting that vital support from his friends and family, and we wish him the best over the coming months and years.

For any others in his position reading this article, please do visit our website, or call our free helpline on 0808 800 8000 if you'd like to talk about it. To donate to the MS Society and help us find a cure, go to www.mssociety.org.uk/donate.