Multiple sclerosis can be considered a highly complex disease due to the way it interacts with the human body, and in the same way the causes too, can be considered complex. There is no single cause of multiple sclerosis, but extensive studies have linked a very specific set of interactions between genetics, environment and lifestyle factors as having a hand in causing multiple sclerosis. Understanding risk factors can be a very important means of preventing multiple sclerosis, so in this article we take a deeper dive into what might cause multiple sclerosis so you know what to avoid.
Navigating the complex web of causes
When it comes to development of the disease, multiple sclerosis can be tough to parse. The causes of MS are not entirely consistent, so avoiding them is not guaranteed to help prevention, but it is still nonetheless interesting to know how this mysterious disease works. As with many other diseases, genetics plays a role and is not a cause that can be suppressed. Sets of specific genes have been identified as being responsible for the development of multiple sclerosis, but these genes alone will rarely cause multiple sclerosis themselves. Instead, they increase risk factors when combined with certain environmental factors. One of the more unexpected causes of multiple sclerosis is geographical location – studies have discovered that individuals who live further away from the equator are more at risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Although the reasons behind this is not entirely know, it is believed that it might be related to exposure to ultraviolent light. Similarly, other studies have found that low levels of vitamin D contribute to the development of multiple sclerosis, which also conforms with the distance from the equator. This is further backed up by evidence that suggests a lack of vitamin D in people already diagnosed with multiple sclerosis can exacerbate symptoms.
More causes and the tests used to diagnose
Several other links have been made to environmental factors that may cause multiple sclerosis. Smoking has been closely linked, regardless of whether it was primary or secondary exposure, with tobacco smoke doubling the chance of an individual developing multiple sclerosis. Unexpectedly some infections have also been linked to multiple sclerosis, including the Epstein-Barr virus. How does one diagnose multiple sclerosis then, particularly if several of these root causes have been met? A simple blood test is often a useful way of eliminating other illnesses that cause similar symptoms, but multiple sclerosis typically requires an extensive neurological examination to be conducted to ensure the diagnosis is correct. This examination has specialists measuring the speed at which messages travel along the body’s nerve pathways and can quickly paint a very vivid picture. MRI scans are another valuable way specialists can diagnose multiple sclerosis as it offers a very clear picture of potentially affected areas of the brain.
Is multiple sclerosis prevention entirely possible?
As multiple sclerosis doesn’t have defined root causes, the only thing that many people can do is to do what they can. This might mean quitting smoking for some, or getting more sun for others, but it can be quite difficult to really know how to prevent multiple sclerosis. If you’re worried that you might be developing it, it might be worth your time to conduct a blood test as soon as possible.