Multiple Sclerosis: data on multiple sclerosis

Information on the incidence and prevalence of multiple sclerosis in Scotland is available from statistics on primary care consultations collected as part of the Practice Team Information scheme and from hospital discharge data. Some data are available to make international comparisons.

The natural course of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) means that people may have long periods of remission from the disease during which they may have little or no contact with the health service. This has the effect of making both primary and secondary care statistics an underestimate of the true prevalence and incidence of the disease. The incidence and prevalence of multiple sclerosis are also strongly dependent on the diagnostic criteria used. The older criteria of Allison and Millar (1954) and Poser et al (1983) have been superceded by those of McDonald (2001) and the revised McDonald criteria of 2005 (Polman et al, 2005). Use of broader criteria generally lead to higher estimates than stricter criteria. Formal diagnostic criteria such as these are more likely to be used in research surveys than in routine clinical practice.

From January 2010 a national register for multiple sclerosis started to collect information about new cases. In due course this will allow much more accurate information to be obtained about the natural history of multiple sclerosis in Scotland and will serve as a valuable resource for audit and research. More information is available on the Scottish MS register website.

Please note: If you require the most up-to-date data available, please check the data sources directly as new data may have been published since these data pages were last updated. Although we endeavour to ensure that the data pages are kept up-to-date, there may be a time lag between new data being published and the relevant ScotPHO web pages being updated.