What Are The Risk Factors For Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune response attacks a person’s central nervous system (i.e. the brain and the spinal cord), leading to demyelination. This disease is characterized by episodic flare-ups and/or by gradual deterioration of neurological functions.

Early onset of multiple sclerosis is often seen only by mild symptoms which are only later realized as being caused by it. There can be:

  • Neurological problems such as changes in sensation, difficult in movement or muscle weakness and spasms. There may be also some difficulty in balance and physical coordination
  • Speech problems or difficulty in swallowing may also be present
  • Visual problems
  • Fatigue and chronic pain
  • Bladder and bowel difficulties
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Depression and mood swings

There are several factors that are thought to increase risk of developing multiple sclerosis; though this is not a disease that is seen to be inherited, certain inherited characteristic and increase of getting this disease. Specific genes have been seen to be associated with MS.

Another theory, which is the hygiene hypothesis, says that those individuals who have had exposure to many infections early on in life may be better protected against this disease.

Some are therefore more susceptible than others. Certain viruses have also been linked to MS, such as the Herpes virus and the varicella virus.

Additionally environmental factors also contribute to MS, such as decreased exposure to strong sunlight and there is more incidence of the disease, the further one goes from the equator.

This is seen even in the migration of people who, if they have migrated to a region where there is increased incidence of MS before the age of 15 then the migrants take on that regions’ increased risk as well.

If the migration occurred after age 15 the migrant may retain his native land’s immunity or susceptibility.

Stress, even extreme grief has been linked to MS. Exposure to certain substances and toxins or chemicals and even some vaccines are being evaluated as a possible cause for MS however nothing conclusive has emerged from this so far.

MS is seen in twice as many women as men and so there appears to be a higher predisposition of one gender to the disease than the other. Also certain races such as Caucasians are also more susceptible than African or Hispanics to this disease.