Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
What Increases Your Risk
Factors that can increase the risk of developing multiple
sclerosis (MS) include:
- Geographic location where you lived during childhood (up to age 15). People who
spend the first 15 years of their lives in higher latitudes in the northern
hemisphere tend to be more likely to develop MS than people who lived closer
to the equator during those years.3
- Family history of MS. People who have a parent with MS are at a higher risk of
developing the disease than people who have no family history of it.
- Race. Whites are twice as likely as blacks to develop MS.
(American Indians) are at only slightly lower risk than whites
- Gender. MS is about twice as common in women as in men
People who have symptoms may come and go or become more or less
severe from day to day and, rarely, from hour to hour. Symptoms may become more
severe with increased (or, less commonly, decreased) body temperature or after a
The most common early symptoms of MS include:
- Muscle (motor) symptoms, such as weakness, leg
dragging, stiffness, a tendency to drop things, a feeling of heaviness,
clumsiness, or a lack of coordination (ataxia).
- Visual symptoms, such as blurred, foggy, or
hazy vision, eyeball pain (especially with movement), blindness, or double
vision. At some point in the course of the disease, about 40% of people have
an attack of optic neuritis, which causes sudden vision loss and eye pain, usually in only
Less common early symptoms include:
- Sensory symptoms, such as tingling, a
pins-and-needles sensation, numbness, a bandlike tightness around the trunk
or limbs, or electrical sensations moving down the back and limbs.
- Balance symptoms, such as lightheadedness or
dizziness, and a spinning feeling (vertigo).
- Bladder symptoms, such as an inability to hold
urine (urinary incontinence), an inability to completely empty the bladder,
a loss of bladder sensation (the person is unable to sense the bladder
becoming full until there is a sudden, urgent need to urinate), or a loss of
male sexual function.
As MS progresses, symptoms may become more severe
and may include:
- Stiff, mechanical movements (spasticity)
or uncontrollable shaking (tremor).
- Pain and other sensory symptoms.
- Inability to control urination (incontinence)
or, less often, an inability to urinate (urinary retention).
- Constipation and other bowel disorders.
- Impotence (erectile dysfunction) in men.
Thinking (cognitive) and emotional problems are
common in people who have had MS for some time. They rarely occur as a result of
the first attack of MS. Since cognitive and emotional problems may be treatable
or may be caused by conditions other than MS, you should always mention any new
symptoms to your doctor.
- Cognitive problems may include memory loss,
difficulty in concentration, reduced attention span, or difficulty finding
the correct words.
- Emotional symptoms may include depression,
anxiety, and anger. A rare symptom is excessive cheerfulness that seems
- The cause of multiple
sclerosis (MS)is unknown. Because a person's risk of MS is higher when a
parent has MS, genetic factors may play a role in causing the disease.
- The unusual relationship between a person's geographic
location during childhood and the risk of MS later in life suggests that
there may be environmental factors at work in the disease. Some researchers
think that these may be viral illnesses or other infectious diseases. However,
there is no clear proof that any specific infection causes MS.
- Furthermore, a childhood viral illness or other
environmental factor by itself is not enough to explain why some people later
develop MS. A growing body of research suggests that a problem with the body's
natural defense system (immune system) occurring later in life may trigger the
onset of MS in people who were exposed to certain factors during childhood. The
"trigger" may be an autoimmune reaction in which the immune system attacks myelin,
the protein coating that protects nerve fibers.
- Other factors have been proposed
as triggers of MS, but none have been proven.
AIHC || AIHC Home || Health Section || Cultural Section || AIHC's Links || Outreach ||
Useful Hotlines ||
Win Our Awards! ||
Awards We've Won ||
Health Section ||
Acanthosis Nigricans ||
Ankylosing Spondylitis ||
Asthma Facts ||
Bi-polar Disorder Facts ||
Breast Cancer Facts ||
Cervical Cancer Facts ||
Chlamydia Facts ||
Colon Cancer Facts ||
Cystic Fibrosis ||
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome ||
Depression Facts ||
Diabetes Facts ||
Diabetes, Type 2 ||
Diabetic Retinopathy ||
Diptheria Facts ||
Domestic Violence ||
Eating Disorders ||
Elder Women's Health Facts ||
Elder Abuse Facts ||
FAS/FAE Facts ||
Gallbladder Disease Facts ||
Gestational Diabetes ||
Gonorrhea Facts> ||
Heart Disease Facts ||
Hepatitis Facts ||
HIV/AIDS Facts ||
Hypertension Facts ||
Hypothyroidism Facts ||
Insulin Resistance Syndrome ||
Kidney Disease ||
Lactose Intolerance ||
Lung Cancer ||
Lupus Facts ||
Menopause Facts ||
Multiple Sclerosis ||
Obesity Facts ||
Oral Clefting ||
Osteoporosis Facts ||
Parkinson's Disease ||
Personality Disorders ||
Phenylketonuria (PKU) Facts ||
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) ||
Pneumonia Facts ||
Proteinuria Facts ||
Rheumatoid Arthritis ||
Reye's Syndrome ||
Schizophrenia Facts ||
Scleroderma Facts ||
Seizure Disorders ||
Stroke Information ||
Substance Abuse Facts ||
Suicide Prevention ||
Testicular Cancer ||
Tobacco Abuse ||
Traditional Herbal Medicine ||
Tuberculosis Facts ||
© 1998-2009 American Indian Health Council. All rights reserved.