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Causes

The cause of Multiple Sclerosis is still unknown but studies suggest that it can be genetics, a person’s environment and even a virus may play a role.

Genes and family history

MS is not considered a hereditary disease; however, it’s likely that a combination of genes make some people more susceptible to developing MS. While MS can occur more than once in a family, it is more likely this will not happen.

While MS can occur more than once in a family, it is more likely this will not happen. There’s only around a two per cent chance of a child developing MS when a parent is affected. Several studies also show that people who move to a different region of the world before the age of 15 acquire the new region’s risk to MS.

Environmental factors

MS is more common in people who live farther from the equator, although exceptions exist. These exceptions include ethnic groups that are at low risk far from the equator as well as groups that have a relatively high risk close to the equator.

Decreased sunlight exposure resulting in decreased vitamin D production has also been put forward as an explanation.

Viruses

No single virus has been identified as definitely contributing to MS, but there is growing evidence that individuals having been infected by the Epstein-Barr virus are at a higher risk of getting MS. This theory is still unproven and many people who do not have MS would have also been exposed to these viruses.

Others

Smoking has been shown to be a risk factor in MS. Studies has found that smoking appears to increase someone’s risk of developing MS. There is still more we need to know about the link between smoking and MS. Stress may also be a risk factor although the evidence to support this is weak. Association with occupational exposures and toxins—mainly solvents—has been evaluated, but no clear conclusions have been reached. Vaccinations were studied as causal factors; however, most studies show no association. Several other possible risk factors, such as diet and hormone intake, have been looked at; however, evidence on their relation with the disease is “sparse and unpersuasive”.

While Multiple Sclerosis is a life-long disease, studies have found that early and continued treatment can effectively enable people living with Multiple Sclerosis to lead active, productive and fulfilling lives.