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Multiple Sclerosis Causes
What causes ms is still an unanswered question. Doctors are still not aware of what it is that causes this disease, but there is plenty of data that points to the following groups of multiple sclerosis causes:
- Immunologic factors
- Environmental factors
The aim of this article is to determine the role of all these factors into the development of multiple sclerosis. Let’s have a look at the most commonly researched causes of MS.
Genetics and Multiple Sclerosis
It is highly believed that this disease is partly inherited in many cases. Genetics are known to be a great contributor to the risk of developing MS, as confirmed in cases of family members diagnosed with the same disease. What causes multiple sclerosis has been a highly confusing question. This was until the point where researchers showed evidence that first, second and third degree relatives of people diagnosed with this disease are at a much higher risk of developing it than those who are not.
Siblings of a person suffering from multiple sclerosis have a 2 to 5% risk of developing the disease too.
The gene that leads to this cause is yet unknown, but it is believed that there is more than one gene that increases the risk of developing MS in family members. Some scientists think that the development of this condition is a result of genetic predisposition to some environmental agents. It is assumed that when the person with the predisposition comes in contact or is exposed to this agent, this can trigger the development of multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is not hereditary; however genetics are one of the known causes of multiple sclerosis. Some studies have even shown that the prevalence of certain genes in populations is higher where there are higher rates of multiple sclerosis.
Additionally, common factors connected to genetics have also been found in families in which more than one person suffers from this autoimmune disease.
Infections, Viruses and Multiple Sclerosis
Exposure to certain viruses, microbes and bacteria is common in childhoods. One of the well recognized demyelination and inflammation causes are actually viruses, so it is presumed that this agent can be a triggering factor in developing MS.
The majority of viruses have been already investigated to make sure that they are not involved in multiple sclerosis development. Even though there is some evidence that viruses have something to do with this disease, none have been definitely proven to be one of the certain ms causes.
The viruses and bacteria being investigated include: measles, human herper virus -6, canine distemper, Epstein-Barr and Chlamydia pneumonia.
Immunologic Factors and Multiple Sclerosis
When multiple sclerosis develops, the immune-mediated response becomes abnormal and attacks the myelin coating. This coating is located around the nerve fibers, in the central nervous system.
Researchers have been successful in identifying the immune cells that are mounting this particular attack. Additionally, the factors that cause these cells to attack and the receptors of the cells are also identified.
Research is continuing on regular basis, with the purpose of learning more about the immunologic causes of multiple sclerosis. These are mostly based on the functioning of these cells, how they work towards causing the disease and what is the best way of slowing down or stopping this process completely.
Environmental Factors and Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis has been identified as a disease that occurs more frequently in certain areas, such as those located farther from the equator. The scientists who work on disease patterns – epidemiologists, are constantly looking at demographics, geography, genetics and infection variations in an effort to understand the true cause of this happening.
There are certain studies that have shown that people who are born in a high-risk area can reduce the MS risk if they move to an area with lower risk before the age of 15.
Similar researchers conclude that some environmental agents exposure prior to the puberty period may also increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis later in life.
There is valid evidence based on the role of vitamin D. It is now revealed that people located close to the equator are more exposed to vitamin D because of the sunlight exposure. These people are known to have higher naturally-produced levels of this vitamin. Vitamin D supports the immune function and allows these people to develop somewhat of an increased immunity from autoimmune diseases such as MS.
Moreover, this autoimmune disease can depend on temperate climates.
Markedly different prevalence of multiple sclerosis is found in different ethnic groups and even populations. Multiple Sclerosis is most common in Scandinavia, Scotland and in northern Europe.
Smoking is also known to be one of the very common multiple sclerosis causes. Some studies show that this habit can increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. And not only that. Smoking is known to cause other more severe diseases too, and increase the rate of progression for diseases.
Also, some researchers claim that if a person suffering from severe disease can have slower progression if they decide to stop smoking.
Studies in multiple sclerosis have not yet found clear evidence for the existence of triggering factors in MS connected to the environment. However, the existence of MS cluster (which means that the majority of MS cases occur at specific location or time period) points to this direction.
Other Causes of MS
You must be wondering: are there other potential causes of this disease?
Actually, there are. In this moment, there is some growing evidence that points to certain hormones. These include the sex hormones and are known to both affect and be affected by the human immune system.
Progesterone and estrogen are the two most important female sex hormones. These are known to suppress some immune activity in certain cases. They reach higher levels when a woman is pregnant, so MS patients has less activity of the disease in this period.
Additionally, testosterone in men can also act as suppressor of the immune response. High testosterone levels is a clear reason for the fact that women are more commonly diagnosed then men.
While the ms causes are still unknown, it is believed that several factors are involved in the development of this autoimmune disease. Studies are constantly ongoing in many areas, including epidemiology, immunology and genetics. In order to understand how this disease can be cured, researchers need to understand why the disease is developing in people. If they find the trigger, they may find the way to slow down or completely destroy this particular disease.