What are the risk factors for multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that affects your central nervous system. Because the CNS is the main conduit responsible for relaying nerve signals to the rest of the body, multiple sclerosis can cause a wide variety of symptoms, such as blurry vision or unsteady gait. As the disease progresses, symptoms can become so severe and widespread that they qualify you for Social Security Disability.

Scientists have yet to determine the exact cause of multiple sclerosis. They believe that several different factors, both environmental and genetic, may be at play when someone develops MS. Research has also identified certain factors that may put you at greater risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

Race

Multiple sclerosis occurs most often in Caucasians compared to other races, such as African Americans or Asians. People who can trace their ancestry back to Northern Europe may be particularly vulnerable.

Family history

Your risk of developing multiple sclerosis increases if you have a close family member who has it, such as a parent or a sibling.

Age

Most people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis are between the ages of 20 and 40 at the time. However, MS can also affect people who are older or younger.

Autoimmune diseases

An autoimmune disease is one that occurs when the immune system turns on the body and starts attacking healthy tissues. Considered an autoimmune disease itself, multiple sclerosis may occur in the setting of others, such as inflammatory bowel disease or psoriasis.

Infectious diseases

There appears to be a link between contracting certain viral infections and eventually developing multiple sclerosis. For example, Epstein-Barr is the virus that causes mononucleosis, and research has demonstrated a connection between this virus and MS.

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