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MS Awareness Month: Which Ribbon Are We Again?

MS Awareness Month: Which Ribbon Are We Again?

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. That means we need to make the most of these four weeks to raise some money for research, and raise awareness about the disease and the 2.5 million people in the world currently living with it. What’s the best way to do that? I know! A ribbon! All the cool diseases have one these days.

Some are easy to remember. Pink is breast cancer. Blue is prostate cancer. Red is AIDS. Yellow is a symbol of support for deployed military personnel. Autism’s ribbon is a beautiful puzzle of primary colors. But what shade represents MS? I remember when I was first diagnosed, the ribbon was shimmering and multifaceted to represent the many ways MS can impact patients. But today, the color is a garish orange. There’s just one problem. That also happens to be the color for:

  • ADHD
  • Agent Orange
  • COPD
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lupus
  • Melanoma
  • Malnutrition Awareness
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome
  • Self Injury AwarenessDay
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Spinal Cancer
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome

Toward the end of the movie The Incredibles, there’s a great scene in which bystanders are trying to remember where they’ve seen Syndrome before. He’s actually the villain of this clever little movie, and is only pretending to be the hero to grab glory for himself. (Here’s the clip if you’d like to enjoy the moment.)

Because we share a ribbon color with so many other conditions, we’re a bit like Syndrome. No one quite knows who we are or what we stand for.

The average person can see around 1 million colors, so it seems pointless to make several dozen conditions share one shade. How can we possibly stand out? My doctor initially thought I had lupus before I was diagnosed with MS, and I do deal with a bit of a sensory processing issue these days, but they aren’t the things I want to raise awareness of—MS is.

We need to find a more unique color, one that will get people’s attention and start a conversation. To that end, I humbly submit three colors on which no other medical condition seems to have called dibs:


This would be my first choice. The color is equally popular among fashion designers and fishing enthusiasts, so it already has a wide fan base. Plus, according to Susan Zhao “The eye is most sensitive to green light (550 nm) because green stimulates two of the three kinds of cones, L and M, almost equally.” That means it’ll be easy to see for most people, no matter what other shades you are wearing. The only group currently using chartreuse is The Mama Bear Effect, which fights child sexual abuse. I don’t know about you, but I that’s a cause worth sharing airtime with.


Another viable option is this deep purple hue. There are several shades currently in use, but this one looks wide open at the moment. Also known by the more lovely French word aubergine, this color works well with a number of palettes. But wait! There’s more. According to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, it is actually one of the few colors that looks good on everyone, so that should make it easier to get folks to wear it.


My third option also looks to be unclaimed for the moment. Cyan—one of the primary subtractive colors—is a cool, comforting hue that is relaxing and easy on the eyes. It’s the blue shade we associate with tropical beach water lapping calmly over pristine sand. Hence, it is a choice for surgical scrubs and a popular color for master bedrooms. I don’t know about you, but life with MS can be stressful, to say the least, so why not pick a ribbon that might help things be a little more Zen overall?

Wear the ribbon proudly

This article has been written mostly in jest. My goal has been to entertain you and to share some fun facts, but the truth of the matter is this: MS respects no color. It strikes people of all ethnicities; people with every eye and hair color imaginable can be diagnosed with this stupid disease. So, while wearing a ribbon does go a long way, speaking up does even more heavy lifting when it comes to awareness.

Whether we get our own color or stay with the orange, wear the ribbon proudly, and when folks ask why you’re wearing it, tell them. Explain to them what MS is, how it impacts your life, what your hopes and dreams are for a cure—inform them about the many discoveries doctors and researchers are finding every day.

Really, the only way we raise awareness is by making them truly aware of us.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Jamie A. Hughes is a writer-editor living in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, two sons, and a pair of very needy cats. She was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 2004 when she was just 25 years old. A lover of words since birth, she wasn’t about to let two little letters get her down. They don’t get the last word. And that’s why she writes her column — to help those dealing with MS to live more thoughtful, hopeful, and inspired lives.
Jamie A. Hughes is a writer-editor living in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, two sons, and a pair of very needy cats. She was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 2004 when she was just 25 years old. A lover of words since birth, she wasn’t about to let two little letters get her down. They don’t get the last word. And that’s why she writes her column — to help those dealing with MS to live more thoughtful, hopeful, and inspired lives.
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    • Jamie Hughes says:


      You are correct. Typically in the United States, where I live, the March is MS Awareness Month and ends with MS Awareness Day on March 31st. However, I had linked to the wrong day/website and corrected accordingly. Good to know we’re in two different months though. Thanks for the info!

      • Emily s says:

        I think the ribbon can be what ever color but it should have a pattern on it. Like polka dots or stripes. Maybe cyan with thick, horizontal, white stripes or purple with white polka dots.

        • Barbara says:

          Okay I’m a little late to this party (it is now April, 2018) but I like the idea of the polka dots. How about an orange ribbon with cream colored dots? They could represent the splotches we have on our brains!

          • Patti says:

            I am totally in favor of your suggestion of CYAN as the/a color for MS! Here’s why… after a little “Googling” I came across s color psychology site. (I will link below.) Amongst other things, the article says that if one has a cyan personality “Independence is important to you… you pride yourself on being self sufficient…[and] You have an ability to see things clearly and objectively…” Also, “…Cyan can influence us by …” promot[ing] and encourag[ing] peace and calmness…[and] Clear thinking and thoughtfulness.” These are some of the very attributes I see myself and other MS patients strive for and achieve every day!

            Did you think you would still be getting responses over a year later? May be time for MS Foundation and MS Society to seriously consider a color(s) for MS to stand out!


          • Jamie Hughes says:

            Patti, I certainly didn’t expect to be getting responses, but I’m so glad you did! I liked the cyan one very much. Cool blue colors are one of my favorites. 🙂 But I think that orange is here to say judging by the national society’s homepage.

    • Sheila Giasson says:

      I like the idea of eggplant, but that partially because my favorite color is purple. Also when I go to buy an MS shirt(which I have a lot of) the orange and purple clash. So I have blue, gray, white, and darker gray shirts, but awareness of any kind of this disease is great!

  1. Anthony Anderson says:

    I have PPMS and I didn’t know, until today that March is MS Month. As for the ribbon, why don’t we adopt the method of the armed forces and use contrasting stripes. Say orange and it’s complimentary colour, purple.

  2. Coming from the brain on MS, those are the patches I put on each day so others understand what I feel like today!

    But I really can’t wait, I can hardly wait to get outside and feel like I’m doing the ice Bucket Challenge… Spasticity is grand! ?

  3. Mary Williams says:

    I my name is Mary and I agree with doing away with orange. The National Oklahoma is a prism color. I have already borrowed this color for myself. No one person has the safe symtoms with MS therefore, the prism color that changes with the light is a good representative of the changes experienced with MS. I love it in jewelery and it is really pretty with everything. I think you can buy the ribbon on line if you search.

    • Heather Service says:

      I completely agree with the prism/iridescent ribbon. I have had MS 21 years and when I first looked at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society store and saw the iridescent ribbon pin, car magnet (which is still on my car, my father’s car, my husband’s car) and the beautiful bracelet with its iridescent, shimmering, every changing colors I felt it perfectly represented the varying and fluctuating evidences of Multiple Sclerosis. I do no care for the ugly orange ribbon the MS society has chosen. In my opinion it certainly does not promote hope. The prism is beautiful. As a former professional dancer I want to remember myself as beautiful and fluid, moving through space at my will. The prism/iridescent ribbon represents the ever changing aspect of MS BUT it also shimmers with glimmers of Hope and Beauty. How can we get the Prism ribbon back?

      • Jamie Hughes says:

        Preach it, Heather! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Sadly, I think the orange ribbon is here to stay, but there’s nothing stopping you from wearing the iridescent one and using it to educate those around you about MS. Go for it!

  4. sean macnair says:

    Don’t change the colour 😒
    I’ve just had my first tattoo with the orange ribbon on it
    Thanks guys….
    When they find a cure we’ll change the colour 🤔
    Until then….I’ll wait…with hope 🎀

    • Jamie Hughes says:

      Sean, I highly doubt they will. I hardly have that much sway. 😀 And yes, changing it when cured is a great idea!

  5. B. Mabus says:

    Around 2001, it was announced that the ribbon for MS was “holographic “—the multiple colors representing how differently we present symptoms. It did not catch on,

  6. Stephanie says:

    Personally I’m new to all this, I was just diagnosed but I do like the idea of the holographic/iridescent ribbon because it affects everyone so differently.

  7. Paula says:

    Ok, love the idea of orange and purple for I love those two colors together. I also like Cyan. It would be nice to just include all three colors into s design for MS.

    With that been said as anyone gotten anywhere with a color change. Just wondering.

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