If Black patients are diagnosed later in the disease, it can affect their treatment plan for a couple of different reasons.
One is if there is a significant amount of disease that we see in the brain, and especially in the spinal cord, we may have to treat the disease more aggressively, meaning using some of our very efficacious or very effective treatments to try to slow the progression of the disease.
I think that also it’s important to recognize that the later someone is diagnosed, the more chance they have to accumulate disability. So sometimes it’s not necessarily a fact that someone is diagnosed later, but they may be diagnosed and decided not to go on treatment. And sometimes we can run into quite a bit of trouble with that because once someone develops a disability, again, we cannot fix what’s already broken.
So if we catch the disease as early as possible and especially if someone looks normal physically, we hopefully can try to keep them that way.
So we want people to be diagnosed as early as possible to start treatment as early as possible to prevent disability in the longterm.
I often tell my patients that we’re not just worried about how you look right now. We’re worried about how you’re going to look 10 years from now, 20 years from now. Because MS is a lifelong disease. People usually do not die of complications of Ms. They have pretty much a normal lifespan. It just as a matter of how this abled or how much disability we accumulate during that lifespan, and that makes a difference in a person’s quality of life.
Dr. Mitzi Joi Williams is a top neurologist and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Specialist in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology from Emory University and her Doctor of Medicine degree from Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Williams completed her internship and residency in neurology as well as a Clinical Fellowship in Multiple Sclerosis at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, GA. Dr. Williams has a strong interest in understanding and furthering research in MS in ethnic minority populations. She is a sought-after speaker and presenter and has discussed her research both nationally and internationally at various scientific meetings. She has spearheaded and participated in multiple Steering Committees and Work Groups to further research in underserved populations with MS. She also has recently increased involvement in efforts to increase diversity in clinical research and educate the community about the importance of research participation. Dr. Williams is the author of MS Made Simple: The Essential Guide to Understanding Your Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis. Because of her passion for teaching and advocacy.