LONDON, April 21 /PRNewswire/ -- A widespread confusion and ignorance about multiple sclerosis (MS) in the minds of the general public has been revealed in a new survey.

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

The You Gov poll shows that of the more than 2,000 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 more tough for people living with MS so take time out during MS Week to find out more and help us fight misconceptions.

The results of the poll show that almost half 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.

Former Manchester united star Danny Wallace is supporting the MS Society during MS week and appearing in a series of national adverts.

Danny, now 45, was in his 20s and at the top of his game playing professional football for Manchester United when he first starting experiencing symptoms that would eventually lead to a diagnosis of MS.

He was unable to bounce back from injury and was spending an increasing amount of time in the treatment rooms.

He said: I take regular medication, which helps, but walking is a problem.

I have been out with friends in a social situation and people have presumed I was drunk. I might have had a few drinks but I certainly wasn't drunk. It made me feel disappointed in people - that they could just presume that that's the case, but I suppose they weren't to know.

Meanwhile, TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, 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.

Notes to editors:

Greater breakdown of statistics by nation:

Thirty-five per cent of people in Scotland also think there is a cure, which is at odds with the high incidence of MS in the country (almost 10,500 people - the highest in the world.)

People in Wales have among the poorest understanding of MS in the UK, according to the poll.

Forty-three per cent of people in Wales were unable to name a single symptom of MS - higher than the UK average. And just under half (48%) of Welsh people think that people with MS end up in a wheelchair, when in fact MS affects people in often very different and unpredictable ways. This was the highest in the UK.

People in Northern Ireland have among the best understanding of MS in the UK, according to a new YouGov poll for the MS Society.

Thirty eight per cent of people in Northern Ireland were unable to name a single symptom of MS. This was lower than the UK average, however, with many Northern Irish people identifying the often complex and variable nature of MS. And while 31 per cent mistakenly thought there is a cure for MS, this too was the best in the UK.

The story behind the theme:

For this year's MS Week the MS Society wanted to fight some of the common misconceptions about multiple sclerosis (MS).

Previous feedback from people with MS told us that they wanted the general public to understand more about what the condition was and how it can actually affect people.

We took the idea to our online message boards and hundreds of people with MS responded with messages of agreement; often sharing their own experiences of MS misconceptions.

If you've got MS, how come you look so well? and why aren't you in a wheelchair then? were just some of the questions people with MS had been asked.

Putting the Pieces Together:

During MS Week, the MS Society will roll out the next phase of its Putting the Pieces Together advertising campaign, in which Danny Wallace is featured (hi-res images of ad available).

Other adverts will focus on other misconceptions as identified in the poll results, and case studies are available for these.

MS and the MS Society:

- Multiple sclerosis (MS) is more common than you think. In fact, it is the most common disabling neurological condition affecting young adults and an estimated 85,000 people in the UK have MS. - MS is the result of damage to myelin - the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system - which interferes with messages between the brain and the body. - For some people, MS is characterised by periods of relapse and remission while for others it has a progressive pattern. - Symptoms can be invisible and range from loss of sight and mobility, fatigue, depression and cognitive problems. MS is incurable and it's for life.

For case studies, images or general media enquiries please contact the MS Society Press Office on +44(0)20-8438-0840, or the out of hours duty press officer on +44(0)7909-851401.