What causes multiple sclerosis?

The causes of multiple sclerosis are not well understood. Researchers believe that the body’s immune system begins to attack the nervous system, specifically the myelin. The myelin is a fatty material that covers and insulates the nerve cells in the central nervous system. Healthy myelin is vital to the normal, rapid movement of electrical impulses through the nerve pathways.

In multiple sclerosis, patches of myelin in the brain and spinal cord become inflamed, swell and develop lesions. Myelin and nerve cells become damaged, which interferes with the normal transmission of electrical impulses and affects how your brain and body communicate.

It is believed that this process may be triggered by a combination of genetic factors and environmental elements, such as exposure to a virus. Sometimes it’s a case of biologic mistaken identity. This occurs when circulating antibodies meant to destroy viruses inaccurately target myelin because it has a similar molecular ‘fingerprint’.

What are the risk factors for multiple sclerosis?

A number of factors may be linked to an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Some risk factors include:

  • Caucasian race

  • Female gender

  • Family history of multiple sclerosis

  • History of autoimmune disorders

  • History of infections such as Epstein-Barr virus and hepatitis B virus
    INTRODUCTION

    What is multiple sclerosis?

    Multiple sclerosis is a progressive autoimmune disease and the most common neurological disease diagnosed in young adults. It is believed that multiple sclerosis occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks the central nervous system. Commonly called MS, the disease generally gets worse with time and can cause significant nerve damage.

    The progression and severity of multiple ... Read more about multiple sclerosisintroduction

    SYMPTOMS

    What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

    The symptoms of multiple sclerosis result from inflammation, swelling, and lesions on the myelin, a fatty material that covers and insulates the nerve cells in the central nervous system. Myelin greatly improves the transmission speed of nerve impulses without decay of the nerve signal. Loss of myelin leads to abnormal transmission of electrical impulses through the central nervous system an... Read more about multiple sclerosissymptoms

    TREATMENTS

    How is multiple sclerosis treated?

    There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, the disease can be managed and the symptoms controlled to various degrees of success with an individualized, multifaceted approach that includes medications and other therapies. You can help manage multiple sclerosis by consistently following your treatment plan.

    Treatment plans are geared toward managing your symptoms and suppress... Read more about multiple sclerosistreatments

    Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

    This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves