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How Multiple Sclerosis Affects the Black Community

New research shows that more Black people are diagnosed with MS than previously thought and that they may have a different disease course.



Multiple sclerosis in the Black community

Experts used to believe that MS mostly affected white people, particularly those of European descent. However, research indicates that more Black people have the disease than previously thought.

Research also shows that MS may affect Black people differently than it does white people. If you are a member of this community, you may face more aggressive progression and greater disability.

Scientists don’t know the reasons for these differences yet. Black people are underrepresented in research, making it harder to find answers. If you’d like to help researchers address this disparity, sign up at the National African Americans with MS Registry and consider enrolling in a clinical trial. If you are not comfortable taking medicine as part of a study, you can also participate by completing surveys or questionnaires.

Make a Difference Through Research

Black people are underrepresented in research studies, making it difficult to tell which treatments are best or how to reduce the risk of MS.

Watch the Video

Watch the Video

Race and MS: Confronting Inequities

Researchers are uncovering gaps in MS research, diagnosis and treatment.

Get Up to Speed

Get Up to Speed

How does MS affect Black people?

Black people with MS might have more aggressive disease progression and greater disability. Specifically, they may have:

  • More walking, balance, and coordination problems
  • More cognitive and visual symptoms
  • More frequent relapses with poorer recovery
  • Earlier disability onset

Disparities in healthcare — diagnosis, treatment and access — could be partly to blame. Early treatment is key to controlling symptoms and preventing disability in MS. Black people may also respond differently to some treatments. Clinical trials are looking into the reasons for this now.

How to live well with MS

Knowledge of how to treat and manage MS is critical to living well with the disease. View the documentary and read the guide below to learn more. Find support and keep up with research through the annual Black MS Experience Summit. Videos from last year’s summit are available now.

Living Well With MS: A Guide for Black Americans

This companion to the documentary offers more on how to live your best life with MS.

Download the Guidebook

Download the Guidebook

How prevalent is MS within the Black/African American community?

A recent study funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society that analyzed information from health insurance claims found that anyone can develop MS.

After evaluating 3 years’ worth of claims by 96 million Americans, researchers found that for every 100,000 people in the general population, 298.4 of them are Black (but not Hispanic/Latinx) people living with MS. This translates to about 3 people out of 1,000.

Stories from the Black MS community

Men and women speak out about their experience of MS. Victoria Reese of We Are ILL shares her story, Marques Jones and others describe disparities in healthcare, and 3 Black women with MS open up about barriers they’ve faced in getting a diagnosis and effective treatments.

Black Girl Magic

Victoria Reese founded We Are ILL to redefine what sick looks like for Black women living with MS.

Read Victoria’s Story

Read Victoria’s Story

A Fresh Perspective

While MS is no longer a hidden disease in the Black community, there are still obstacles to overcome.

Learn More

Learn More

Get involved in MS research for the Black community

Black people are underrepresented in research studies, making it difficult to understand why the disease affects them differently and to provide the best possible care. If you’re interested in helping, check out 4 initiatives currently seeking volunteers:

Talk to your healthcare provider about participating in a clinical trial or other type of research.

Additional resources

  • (BDO) — The most comprehensive online health resource specifically targeted to African Americans, BDO provides the health information you need in everyday language. 
  • “Brain Chat With the Nerdy Neurologist” — In this podcast, Dr. Mitzi Joi Williams, a world-renowned MS specialist, explores the brain as it relates to health, wellness and science.


The National MS Society is Here to Help

Newly Diagnosed
If you or somone close to you has recently been diagnosed, access our MS information and resources.

Start Here

Start Here
© 2024 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its Identification Number (EIN) is 13-5661935.