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Seeing MS visualises life with multiple sclerosis

A project by Australia's MS Society gives an inside look at what it's like living with the disease.


(Credit: MS Society)

A project by Australia's MS Society gives an inside look at what it's like living with the disease.

Thanks largely in part to the MS Readathon, we've all heard of multiple sclerosis (MS) — an inflammatory disease that attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spine, causing irreparable damage. It's the most common neurological disease worldwide, affecting an estimated 2.5 million people — around 18,000 to 20,000 in Australia.

It's easy, though, to cite facts and statistics. The realities of living with MS can be a bit harder to describe. Symptoms range from loss of sensation, to tingling and burning, to mental health issues such as clinical depression — and yet, because the disease rarely presents with a visible manifestation, understanding these symptoms can be hard for others.

Seeing MS hopes to change this. A project from the MS Society, it provides a way for those with MS to visualise their experiences — and for others to learn. Nine photographers each consulted with people with MS to create images based on one of nine different symptoms — blurred vision; pain; hot and cold, in which the nervous system cannot correctly perceive temperature; spasticity, which is the temporary loss of fine motor function; dizziness; fatigue; brain fog; loss of balance; and numbness.

"Most symptoms of multiple sclerosis go unnoticed by everyone except the person living with them," the website says. "One day they can alter your memory, the next your vision. Striking without warning and leaving no trace, they are invisible."

Users can also create their own images using the free apps for iOS and Android. Each photographer created a special filter that visualises the experience of that symptom, and users can capture their own shots and share them via the app and website, learning more about each symptom in the process.

You can view each photographer's work on the Seeing MS website, and download the apps from iTunes and Google Play.