A national poll commissioned by the MS Society has shown a widespread confusion and ignorance about multiple sclerosis (MS) in the minds of the general public.

The survey results highlight the many misconceptions that exist around the condition, and have been released ahead of next week's MS Week, during which the MS Society hopes to encourage better understanding of MS among the public.

The YouGov poll shows that of the more than 2,000 people questioned there was a lack of understanding of how common MS is, what its symptoms were and at what age it is generally diagnosed.

MS Society Chief Executive, Simon Gillespie, said: "This survey gives us the clearest picture yet of what people know - or don't know - about MS, and the results are a cause for concern.

"These myths make life even tougher for people living with MS so take time out during MS Week to find out more and help us fight misconceptions."

Almost half of those surveyed in the poll couldn't guess how many people in the UK have the condition, and of those who did answer, 80 per cent underestimated the true figure.

In fact, only six per cent were able correctly to identify that there are more than 85,000 people in the UK with MS, making it the most common, disabling neurological condition affecting young adults.

Just under half of respondents to the survey couldn't name a single symptom of MS, while only a quarter realised that it's a disease that mostly affects people aged between 25 and 34, when a diagnosis is most likely to be made.

Around 40 per cent (two in five) of respondents assumed a diagnosis of MS meant a lifetime in a wheelchair, whereas just 20 per cent of people with MS rely on one.

Alarmingly, six per cent of people attributed MS to 'public health issues' such as obesity, poor diet, smoking or germs. Some respondents even thought MS led to brittle bones, bad teeth, phlegm and loss of appetite.

TV presenter Lorraine Kelly is supporting this year's MS Week and said: "As I have a relative with MS, I know from personal experience that there are myths and misconceptions which make life even tougher for people living with the condition.

"I would urge everyone to make an effort to find out what MS really means to those who have to live with it day in and day out."

MS Society