More than 15,000 are living with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Scotland – just over 36% more than previously thought, according to estimates from a charity.
A study based on Public Health England (PHE) data estimates the prevalence of people with the condition is higher than the 11,000 figure which had been used before.
The rise has been put down to a range of factors, including an ageing MS population and better diagnostic methods, as well as improved recording of medical data.
Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “These new figures confirm what we already suspected – that there are many more people living with MS in Scotland than previously thought.
“While the NHS is getting better at diagnosing and recording cases of MS, unfortunately in many important ways society is getting worse at supporting people with the condition.
“Compared to just a few years ago, fewer people with MS receive social care support and key welfare payments – and we hear far too many stories of people struggling to stay in work without the adjustments they need.
“We now know that Scotland has a higher rate of MS than anywhere in the world and that underlines the need for action on care and support to guarantee that people who are diagnosed with the condition are able to access the help they need.”
MS damages the body’s nerves and makes it harder for people to do things such as walking, talking, eating and thinking. It can be painful and disabling.
The new figure would mean that one in every 300 people in Scotland is living with the condition.
Around 13 people are diagnosed every week on average north of the border.
PHE generated the new estimated figures with the MS Society using 2018 patient information taken from a GP database.
The body applied the number of people identified as having MS to the population as a whole in England.
The MS Society replicated the research methodology to establish UK-wide figures.