4 posts tagged “MSA”

Recognizing Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) Awareness Month

Posted March 20th, 2012 by

In observing Rare Disease Day at the end of February, we talked how there are 7,000+ conditions that are categorized as rare diseases due to their lower prevalence (less than 200,000 people in the US).  Today we’d like to spotlight one of these lesser-known conditions:  multiple system atrophy (MSA), which affects 536 PatientsLikeMe members and approximately 50,000 Americans.

A Snapshot of the MSA Community at PatientsLikeMe

There are no celebrities with MSA, nor is there a high-profile nonprofit organization driving awareness of the disease.  Instead, MSA patients have organized themselves through a “Miracles for MSA” Facebook page and determined grassroots efforts.  They’ve also designated March as Multiple System Atrophy Awareness Month.  Their goal?  “We want to reach everyone affected by MSA and have them join us here to make our voices even louder next year.  Together, we can make miracles happen for MSA.”

What can you do to help?  Learn about MSA and help spread the word.  Previously known as Shy-Drager Syndrome, MSA affects middle-aged men and women and advances rapidly with a progressive loss of motor skills.  It is very rare for someone to live 15 years with MSA.  One of the common symptoms is stiffness, similar to what’s seen in Parkinson’s disease.  As a result, MSA is considered a “Parkinson’s plus syndrome,” but it does not typically respond to Parkinson’s treatments.

See MSA’s devastating symptoms firsthand – including losing the ability to speak and swallow solid foods – in this moving YouTube video made by the daughter of a MSA patient.  It’s been entered in the 2012 Neuro Film Festival from the American Academy of Neurology, with winners to be announced April 22, 2012.


“A Mile and a Candle” for World MSA Day

Posted October 3rd, 2011 by

Today, October 3rd, is World MSA Day.

MSA stands for multiple system atrophy, a degenerative neurological disorder that causes symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. As a result, it is included in a group of diseases called “Parkinson-plus syndromes,” which have the classical symptoms of Parkinson’s (such as tremor and stiffness) as well as additional physical and mental features. In addition, these diseases typically do not respond to Parkinson’s treatments.

Walk a Mile Today for World MSA Day 2011

The theme for this year’s World MSA Day is “A Mile and a Candle.” All around the globe, MSA activists will be lighting a candle today at 8:00 p.m. local time for one hour. Participants are being asked to light a candle for each person they know who is living with MSA or has been lost to MSA. As candles are lit across every continent, a virtual 24-hour wave of light will be created as it moves from time zone to time zone.

In addition, activists will be walking a mile (or more) in honor of MSA, then reporting their mileage on the “A Mile and a Candle Counter Page.” The goal is to tally enough miles from enough participants to equal 24, 901 miles, which is the circumference of the earth at the equator. If this goal is accomplished, MSA Day supporters will have “walked around the earth” to raise awareness of this little-known disease.

Here at PatientsLikeMe, 485 patients report MSA, with 54% of them female and 46% of them male. The most common age bracket reported is 50-59 years of age, while some of the most commonly reported symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, sexual dysfunction, emotional lability and bladder problems. Get to know our MSA patients today and, if you can, light a candle or walk a mile in their honor.


Rare Disease Day 2011: “Rare, But Equal”

Posted February 28th, 2011 by

RDD_whiteFor patients with prevalent diseases, it may be easy to find others with your condition.  You meet them at clinics; you run into them when seeing your specialist; or you participate in one of the support groups in your area.  For those with rare diseases, the simple act of finding another patient like you isn’t always as easy.  You might be the only patient your doctor has seen with your condition.  Finding another patient often becomes a goal and sharing and learning from them a welcomed reward.

Alongside NORD and EURORDIS, we are celebrating Rare Disease Day and they’ve deemed this year’s theme “Rare, but Equal.”  At PatientsLikeMe, patients are patients, no matter what their condition.  Patients with rare diseases are sharing their health information alongside patients with more widespread conditions.

So, who do we have sharing information about their rare disease?  To date, more than 455 patients with Multiple System Atrophy and 122 patients with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, both neurodegenerative disorders that mimic Parkinson’s disease, have joined our community.  Do you have Neuromyelitis Optica, the autoimmune inflammatory disorder affecting the spinal cord, optic nerve, that has lesions often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis?  There are 332 patients just like you.  Sharing right alongside these patients you’ll find 388 patients with Progressive Muscular Atrophy (a rare subtype of ALS which only affects the lower motor neurons) and 331 with Primary Lateral Sclerosis (a subtype of ALS which affects the upper motor neurons).

Many of you also know that we actually started PatientsLikeMe focused on the rare neurodegenerative disease, ALS.  Six years later, there are now more than 4,000 ALS patients-plus almost 20% of the newly diagnosed in the U.S. every month-sharing their journeys and learning from one another.  (You can read about highlighted milestones in our 2010 ALS Awareness Month blog.)  In 2011, we’ll continue our heritage of serving those with rare diseases by improving this overall experience of finding a “patient like me.”

There are no major awareness raising pink ribbons or yellow wristbands for these rare diseases.  But, there is a group of patients who have found each other, who are sharing with one another and the world their disease experience.  And, that will translate to accelerated research and better outcomes – two things we are hoping to make a little less rare.

PatientsLikeMe member mcotter


Rare Diseases: Well-Done Online

Posted July 17th, 2009 by

There are rare diseases, and there are rare diseases. Here at PatientsLikeMe our first community was built for patients with ALS (estimated US Prevalence: 30,000), and in common with our other neurological communities there is a familiar list of challenges: low public awareness, little funding for research, and a lack of adequate treatments. However, over the past year or so I’ve really had my eyes opened to the differences between “rare” and what you might call “super-rare” conditions, such as Devic’s neuromyelitis optica. Nobody really knows how many people Devic’s affects as it is frequently confused with MS, but there are probably only a few thousand patients with this condition in the world. That’s why we’re incredibly proud that our Devic’s community currently has 136 registered patients sharing health data with one another; that’s more than 5 times larger than the largest study I’ve seen on the condition in the scientific literature (which included collaborators from around the world in seven specialist centers over the course of several years).

I was privileged to be invited to speak at the annual meeting of Eurordis (The European Organization for Rare Diseases) in Athens, Greece, to meet with some of the leading online health efforts in this space. Attendees included non-profit organizations, medical professionals, and patients themselves from all over Europe.  We all convened to discuss some of the most innovative tools available on the web for patients to find other patients like them, share their data, and improve their outcomes. PatientsLikeMe was featured as an ambitious and innovative effort to accelerate the pace of research in rare diseases but we also saw great initiatives that had come from the frontlines of rare diseases.  In fact, the point about ultra-rare diseases was driven home in the opening keynote by Yann Le Cam when we heard that there are some 5,500 rare diseases cataloged by Orphanet (including Devic’s) which are not in the ICD-10 taxonomy of diseases. Ultimately, at PatientsLikeMe, our goal is to build a community for every life-changing illness that exists, but what can patients with these conditions be looking for in the meantime?

paulathens-video

The highlight of the meeting for me was seeing the incredible work being carried out at Duchenne Connect.org (The Netherlands) and Duchenne Connect.org (USA). Founders Elizabeth Vroom and Pat Furlong gave an overview of their experiences building patient-focused programs that allowed parents of children with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy to support one another, accelerate the efforts of researchers, and bring greater attention and focus to patients affected by this rare disease. From the other side of the Atlantic, Mary Dunkle from NORD (National Organization for Rare Diseases) made a clear statement that online communities have the power to be far more than just bulletin boards and blogs for patients to use for emotional support. In her presentation, she stated: “We want to move beyond simply providing emotional support…to facilitate action that produces results”; we couldn’t agree more. Videos of the talks from these amazing patient advocates (along with many other talks from the meeting) can be viewed online here at the Eurordis website.

There were a number of challenges that were highlighted during the meeting. David Golub was the first to articulate that there are serious ethical issues implicit in for-profit companies (like us!) being involved in patient research that was traditionally the remit of academics and clinicians. He asked us to all consider what we can all do to “protect the public commons?”. Unsurprisingly for a European audience, there was much concern about language specialization.  Patient advocates insisted on better localization to allow broader access to non-English speakers, and for providers like us trying to find innovative ways to ensure excellent content that can be dynamic and accessible for all. My own view is that technology (like Google Translate) will outpace any system we could possibly resource with human translators.

Finally, there was the question put to us by event organizer Denis Costello from Eurordis; how can small non-profits in ultra-rare diseases partner with organizations like PatientsLikeMe?  It’s something we think about every day. Our Devic’s community came out of our MS Community; PSP and MSA came from Parkinson’s; and PLS and PMA came out of ALS. We are developing strategies to build communities for “clusters” of communities that will allow us help a broader swathe of patients with both prevalent and rare conditions. It was hugely encouraging to see the energy, ingenuity, and determination that you see when advocates are passionate about helping patients.