Even though the exact cause behind multiple sclerosis (MS) is still unknown, there is increasing evidence suggesting that numerous factors may increase the risk of developing this condition. Some of the most common risk factors for multiple sclerosis include:
- Genetics: While MS is not a hereditary disorder, studies have shown that having immediate relatives such as a parent or siblings with MS may greatly increase a person’s risk of developing the condition.
- Certain infections: A variety of viruses have been found to increase the risk of developing MS. There is mounting evidence that some viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6) may be possible co-factors in MS development.
- Smoking: Research has shown that smokers are 1.5 times more likely to develop MS than nonsmokers. It has been found that cigarette smoking not only increases the susceptibility towards MS but may also contribute to rapid disease progression.
- Obesity: People who are obese are also at an increased risk of developing MS. For example, a Canadian study found that an elevated body mass index (BMI) may influence MS susceptibility.
- Environmental factors: Environmental factors such as climate are also believed to be risk factors for MS. For example, people living in countries and regions with climates such as Canada, Northern Europe, New Zealand, and the northern U.S. are more likely to develop the disease.
- Certain autoimmune diseases: The prevalence of certain autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are known to slightly increase the risk of developing MS.
- Age, sex, and race: Demographic factors such as age, sex and race may increase an individual’s risk of developing MS. For example, the risk of developing MS increases with age. In addition, due to genetic variations, women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition. In terms of race, MS is more common in people of Northern European descent than people of Asian, African or Native American descent.
It is important to note that some risk factors such as smoking and obesity can be avoided by making appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes.
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.