What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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Despite being relatively well-known, there is often some doubt surrounding the causes of multiple sclerosis. According to the National MS Society, there are various factors which could contribute to someone developing MS.

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease that can affect the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The effects vary from person to person, from mild symptoms that require little treatment and allow the patient to lead a reasonably normal life, to more severe symptoms requiring more care.

But what exactly causes multiple sclerosis?

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The cause can sometimes be immunological. MS is caused when the body’s immune system attacks something called myelin, a protective material found on the outside of nerve fibres. The damage MS causes to this material damages the nerve fibres, meaning your brain cannot send signals through your body the way it wants to.

Some specialists believe it’s the environment. Statistical evidence suggests that there are a higher number of MS cases in countries further away from the equator. Such studies also suggest that if a person born in a high-risk area moves to a lower risk area before the age of 15, that they assume the risk of the new area. This could be related to vitamin D intake. Countries closer to the equator typically have more hours of sunlight, meaning that the inhabitants of these areas naturally produce more vitamin D, which helps to support and protect the immune system against immune disease such as MS.

MORE: Every statistic you could ever want to know about MS 

Smoking is also thought to increase the risk of developing MS, and exacerbates the severity and the progression of the disease.

In the beginning of our lives, our body is exposed to a number of disease-causing bacteria, such as measles, canine distemper, human herpes virus-6 and chlamydia pneumonia. All of these bacteria either have been or are being investigated to figure out whether exposure to can trigger the development of MS.

Although MS is not a genetic disease, there is an increased risk of developing the disease if a relative like a parent or sibling is already affected. Some research also suggests that people can be born with a genetic predisposition that can act as a catalyst for a immune response when put into contact with certain environmental factors.

MORE: 18 common home modifications to make to improve life with MS

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 another 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.

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