Multiple sclerosis (MS) can affect people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, but, historically, the incidence of MS in the United States was thought to be highest in White individuals. More recent data suggest that the incidence of MS in Black or African American individuals is comparable to that in White individuals. In Hispanic or Latino individuals, incidence of MS is lower, but age of onset may be earlier compared with White individuals. Additionally, there are important differences in MS disease severity, disease progression, and mortality in Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino populations. Compared with their White counterparts, individuals from these underrepresented groups are more likely to be affected by MS in specific areas of the nervous system, such as accelerated loss of retinal and brain tissue in Black or African American individuals and optic neuritis in Hispanic individuals. Additionally, Black or African American individuals with MS tend to have an aggressive disease course, earlier disability, and higher risk of requiring ambulatory assistance. Although these differences may be attributed to genetic factors, systemic racism and biases and barriers to accessing care may perpetuate health disparities. Moreover, non-White communities remain broadly underrepresented in clinical trials; however, it is vital that these populations are appropriately represented so that any potential differences in drug efficacy or safety implications are detected. Thus, it is important to increase awareness of MS in these populations. In this podcast, the authors discuss characteristics of MS in Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino populations, identify barriers to care, and propose solutions to improve access to MS care in these populations.
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