Multiple sclerosis maps reveal regional variation across Scotland

Multiple sclerosis maps reveal regional variation across Scotland

 

Monday, 17 June, 2019

Dr Patrick Kearns (Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences) and colleagues have published a study looking at regional variation of multiple sclerosis across Scotland, providing the first detailed snapshot of people affected by the disease across the country. The findings used the Scottish Multiple Sclerosis Register, a national database with records of people diagnosed since 2010. The study provides evidence that Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, revealing that incidence of the disease varies substantially between regions. 

The study adds weight to previous findings that disease rates are greater than in northern regions, but suggests that other factors may also be important. Figures showed incidence of the disease in Shetland is more than one-third lower than in Orkney, despite Shetland being located farther north. Rates of MS in Tayside are almost double those in Lothian, however. Further studies are needed to probe the underlying causes of regional and gender differences. 

Dr Patrick Kearns says, "The Scottish MS Register is a powerful new resource – the result of substantial far-sighted investment – which builds on the strength of the NHS in Scotland. It allows us to study, in detail, the geographic risk of developing MS. There is much more work to be done, not least to further ensure the accuracy and precision of the register. However, our hope is that by understanding more precisely where the areas of higher and lower risk are found in Scotland, we can start to work out why."