Multiple sclerosis, or MS for short -- even if you don't know what it is, chances are, you've heard of it.
If you know what it is, sadly, your life has probably been touched in some way by this neurological condition that according to Heathline.com, affects an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide.
2.5 million people... That's a lot of mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and so on, living with the disease. Without knowing it, a friend, colleague or the person you're sitting next to on the train as you read this, could be struggling with this disease that interferes with nerve impulses within the brain, spinal chord and optic nerves.
While most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40, both younger and older people can suffer from MS as well. Its precise cause remains unknown which means that any treatment is always to some extent, experimental in nature.
This is exactly why events such as the International MS Patient Summit being held in Rome on Friday, 22 May, are so important. In addition to driving a running dialogue and conversation about MS, this conference will place patients' own expertise at the top of its agenda.
Enter MS campaigner Kaz Aston who's been named as conference Moderator and will be among the five speakers at the conference.
"This event is different because it's all about the patient, and about the 'expert patient' as a concept - We're recognising that MS patients have a lot to bring to the table," says Aston.
Kaz and MS nurse Jonny DelaCruise from the UK's biggest MS centre at Charing Cross Hospital
Given Aston was diagnosed with MS over two decades ago, MS is a topic she's passionate about and she remains committed to educating others and creating awareness about MS. Not only is Aston a global campaigner and the author of the MS Clear Guide, she's the Patient Editor of the In Focus MS Patient Magazine and supports numerous UK and international MS organisations and charities via her ongoing fundraising and public relations efforts.
Aston says the Rome conference is a real opportunity for younger people to utilise social media for good and to share new ideas.
"This conference is all about the role of the patient in treatment," she says.
A number of charities and organisations providing support for people affected by MS around the globe will also be attending the International MS Patient Summit.
The summit aims to share the latest research findings and strategies to support patients in terms of both information and treatment. Delegates can then take this knowledge back to their countries.
"It's not always about trying to treat the MS directly," says Aston.
"... It can also be about the things that MS generates in your life - So there are work and lifestyle issues as well that people with MS want to talk about."
The event details are listed below:
The 4th International MS Patient Summit in Rome
When: Friday, 22 May, 2015
Theme: Raising standards: The voice of people with MS
Event hashtag for social medial: #thinkMS
• Patient rights in research and treatment - Dr Vittorio Martinelli (It), Aliki Vrienniou (Gr)
• Influencing the direction of healthcare decision-making - Mary Baker (UK)
• The 'Expert' Patient - Jean Hardiman-Smith (UK)
• Key note speaker Sir Nick Partridge (UK)
• Conference moderator- Kaz Aston (UK)