Familial Connections Cannot Be Coincidences, Can They?

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What's Important NowLife can be really strange and not always fathomable to someone like me who is not blessed with neither medical nor scientific qualifications.

On a purely technical basis, I am just an ordinary guy. What I do know about diseases, illnesses and conditions – call them what you will – comes from my personal experience of being a patient, being a relative of a patient, or through being a journalist. In the last role, I carry research into facts to enable me to write and to talk to people who know much more than me about their subjects.

All this is the foundation on which my opinions are developed.

But let’s look at something that many may regard as mysterious: possible connections between diseases and family members!

Can multiple sclerosis be inherited? While in most cases the answer seems to be that it is not inherited, research published earlier his year proved that in some cases it can be. Familial links have been discovered. (http://news.ubc.ca/2016/06/01/ubc-vancouver-coastal-health-scientists-find-genetic-cause-of-multiple-sclerosis/)

Two different connections

In my own case, I have two family links with two different illnesses – epilepsy and MS. The fact that I have both is not totally surprising as it has been established that epilepsy and multiple sclerosis occur together more frequently than by chance. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24304488).

My brother and I developed epilepsy, although there was no known family history of it. I can remember as  a child, probably about 6 years old as I was 11 years younger than my brother, seeing him have a seizure in our garage. I ran into our backyard calling to our parents and shouting that Graham had “fallen over.” I knew what I meant – and so did they!

Later, a couple of his children showed signs of the disease while still young but they seemed to grow out of it.

However, a different son has since been diagnosed with relapsing MS and was told a couple of days ago that his recent MRI shows active lesions. My nephew has now been prescribed Tecfidera that he is going to take, despite having very real concerns about its possible side effects.

“I checked the drug out on the MS Society website,” he told me. What he saw did not exactly ease his concerns.

Connections or coincidences? I don’t really believe in coincidences.

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.


Rita avatar


The results of the Canadian study suggesting a progressive MS gene have subsequently been questioned by other researchers - https://www.statnews.com/2016/09/09/multiple-sclerosis-gene-attack/

Matthew Coil avatar

Matthew Coil

I have a 48 year old sister that died in 2002 after a 30 year fight against MS. I have a 51 year old sister that died in 2006 from her MS. I am 64 years old and I will receive Tysabri #47 next week. I have a 32 year old daughter who is fighting a losing battle with her MS. Tecfidera did not help her. Her JC virus is too high to allow other treatments. She is a young mother with small children. I have five nieces that all have MS. Oh and my 16year old granddaughter had her first MRI three years ago, we know what her symptoms tell us. MS is a devastating disease and yes, MS always wins. I wish that the FDA would approve some of the medications and treatments that might help me and my family.

Kim Thomas avatar

Kim Thomas

I was diagnosed with MS at age 31. My older sister was diagnosed 2 years earlier. Now, 20 years later, my younger sister was diagnosed with 1 scar on her brain believed to be MS. So no, I do not think it is just a coincidence having 3 sisters with the same disease.

Sara avatar


I am the youngest of 3 sisters. The middle sister died at age 58 after years of rapidly progressing MS. The oldest sister died at age 68 after years of rapidly progressing MS. I am 62, was diagnosed 5 years ago, and have mild symptoms so far. I am taking Tecfidera. I appreciate hearing about others who have clusters of MS in their families - for some reason I feel comforted that my family is not the only one. By sharing our stories we may inspire someone to study the genetic link again and find out more about it.


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