20388 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Risk Factors for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
    It is possible to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing MS. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
    Risk factors for MS include:

    Medical Conditions

    A viral infection may trigger MS. Researchers have been investigating a type of herpes virus, human herpes virus-6, and Epstein-Barr virus. Some medical experts believe that it is the way certain people respond to the virus that may trigger MS.
    People who have an isolated attack of optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve) have a high risk of developing MS.

    Age

    Risk appears to be greatest between the ages of 16 and 40. This is when most people with MS are diagnosed.

    Gender

    At younger ages, women tend to be diagnosed with MS more frequently than men. However, the gender ratio is more equally balanced in people who develop MS later in life.

    Genetic Factors

    There may be a genetic component to MS, and sometimes it occurs in families. Researchers suspect more than one gene may be involved.

    Ethnic Background

    MS is more common in people of Northern European descent, especially people who are of Scandinavian background.

    Vitamin D

    According to some studies, people with a low intake of vitamin D had an increased risk of MS. But researchers are still investigating vitamin D's role in the development of MS.
    If you are concerned about your vitamin D level, talk to your doctor, who can test your blood. Vitamin D can be found in foods like cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and vitamin-D fortified milk. You can also get vitamin D by spending time in the sunshine, which triggers your body to go through a process to produce the vitamin.

    Other Factors

    Other factors that may increase your risk of MS include:
    • Climate—Living in a colder climate early in life may increase your risk of developing MS. This could be related to getting less sun exposure.
    • Smoking —Smoking is also thought to be associated with a higher risk of MS.

    References

    Calvagna M. Vitamin D. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/ . Updated April 5, 2011. Accessed August 31, 2012.

    Ebers GC. Environmental factors and MS. Lancet Neurology . 2008;7(3):268-277.

    Multiple sclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated August 10, 2012. Accessed August 31, 2012.

    Multiple Sclerosis Society. News item. Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/news/news-detail/index.aspx?nid=2568 . Accessed August 31, 2012.

    Multiple Sclerosis. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/multiple%5Fsclerosis/multiple%5Fsclerosis.htm . Accessed August 31, 2012.

    Nolan D, et al. Contributions of vitamin D response elements and HLA promoters to multiple sclerosis risk. Neurology. 2012;July 11.

    About MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/treatments/index.aspx . Accessed August 31, 2012.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.