The Minority/ Black Health Blog  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Comedian Richard Pryor Died of Multiple Sclerosis -- What Is It and Why Does It Affect 10 out of Every 100,000 African Americans?

Richard Pryor

For many years, multiple sclerosis was considered to be a "white man's disease". But new research shows that just the opposite is true. A new research by Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Los Angeles showed a surprising amount of African Americans not only being diagnosed with the disease but also diagnosed in increasing numbers.

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is what comedian Richard Pryor died of in 2005. He had the disease for 20 years. Multiple sclerosis a chronic, progressive disease that causes damage to the sheaths or coverings around nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The symptoms may include numbness, impairment of speech, decreasing muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue. MS affects about 400,000 Americans, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Increasing numbers of Blacks are being diagnosed with MS

The study examined medical records over a three-year period and found that Blacks had a higher incidence of MS with 10 out of every 100,000 blacks developing the disease compared to 7 out of every 100,000 whites. In addition, more than two thirds of the cases were among women.

Cause and cure

The cause of MS is unknown, and there is no cure. Cases vary from mild to severe and can change over time. Comedian Richard Pryor was diagnosed with MS in 1986. Treatment and drugs can often reduce the frequency and severity of MS and even slow the progression of certain types of MS. The disease can affect all racial and ethnic groups, but given the information based on recent research, African Americans in particular should take the disease seriously if they experience any symptoms.

For more details about MS, visit www.nationalmssociety.org
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