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Racial, Ethnic Differences in Multiple Sclerosis Identified

Age at onset, symptoms, and treatment vary between Caucasians, Latinos, African-Americans

THURSDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Caucasians, Latinos, and African-Americans with multiple sclerosis (MS) appear to have differing experiences with symptoms, treatments, and other factors related to their disease, according to research published in the Autumn issue of Ethnicity & Disease.

Robert J. Buchanan, Ph.D., of Mississippi State University, and colleagues compared 26,967 Caucasians, 715 Latinos, and 1,313 African-Americans with MS to identify differences in MS characteristics, demographics, and health services received by racial/ethnic identity.

The researchers found that Caucasians were generally older than Latinos or African-Americans at first experience of MS symptoms/diagnosis (30.1/37.4 compared with 28.6/34.5 and 29.8/35.8 years of age, respectively). Latinos were more likely to report normal mobility and bladder/bowel function than were Caucasians, and African-Americans (45.8 percent) and Latinos (44.2 percent) were more likely to report at least mild depression than were Caucasians (38.7 percent). Latinos were less likely than Caucasians or African-Americans to receive mental health care or rehabilitation, and African-Americans were less likely to be treated by a neurologist/MS specialist or to receive care at an MS clinic.

"Our findings highlight the need for future analyses to determine if age, disease duration, MS symptoms, and disability levels provide additional insights into racial/ethic differences in the use of MS-related providers," the authors write.

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