Multiple Sclerosis is a mysterious and misunderstood disease with invisible symptoms.
But people can now see what it’s like to be in the world of an MS sufferer through virtual reality technology.
“The effects of MS can be physical and emotional, and because its symptoms are often invisible, the experiences of those suffering from MS can be difficult for caregivers, family and friends to understand,” said Dr. Daniel Selchen, director of the MS clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital.
“Knowing that, raising awareness of MS is critical, and gaining insight into the journey a person living with MS faces allows us to further understand this complex disease.”
The new MS from the Inside Out virtual reality program allows people to experience the symptoms of MS, a degenerative auto-immune disease for which there is no cure.
The symptoms include a lack or coordination, cognitive impairment, vision problems, impaired sensation, extreme fatigue and weakness.
MS from the Inside Out is a ten minute tour that starts inside a MS brain with guided instructions — much like what one would imagine on a space flight.
The tour shows how the brain goes wrong and the effects.
For the audio impairments symptoms, it demonstrated an orchestra and then, how the music would sound distorted for a person with MS during an episode.
The visual demonstration shows a beach sunset and then how foggy or blotchy the scene would be for a person with MS sight symptoms.
“This is a big first step for technology integration in the MS space and we’re excited about the possibilities it may provide the 100,000 Canadians currently living with the disease,” said Gaby Murphy, president of EMD Serono, Canada, which developed the technology.
“(We’re) committed to furthering education about MS for both people with the disease and their loved ones. This ground-breaking technology has potential to help increase our understanding of MS and further raise awareness of the impact of the disease.”
This is an educational tool for health care providers and family members of those with MS.
However, Selchen said understanding leads to compassion and if that results in research funding, all the better.
Of the 2.3 million MS sufferers world-wide, 100,000 are Canadians, making Canada the country with the highest rate of MS, globally.
Selchen says it’s unclear why Canada has the high rates of MS, but it could be because of the cold climate and genetic factors in the population.