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What are the Causes of Multiple Sclerosis?

Autumn Rivers
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Though there are no clear cut causes of multiple sclerosis, there are various theories, each of which claims a different reason for this autoimmune disease. One of the main theories suggests that the immune system of those with multiple sclerosis attacks the spinal cord and brain, resulting in damaged nerves. Genetics may also play a role, since those with relatives affected by this condition are more likely to get it. Additionally, both the environment and infections are other possible causes of multiple sclerosis.

Some of the most widely known theories suggest that certain causes of multiple sclerosis are out of the patient's control. For example, it has been shown that the immune system's T-cells may attack the body's cells, especially in the brain and spine. This can lead to damaged nerves in those areas, resulting in the various symptoms seen with this disease. Heredity is another factor that the impacted patients have no control over, as having a relative with multiple sclerosis increases the chances of developing this condition.

One of the other suggested causes of multiple sclerosis is infection. This is because some viruses resemble the cells of the nerves, and when the body is sick, its T-cells fight off the infected cells. Once the illness is gone, the T-cells may mistake existing nerve cells as leftover from the virus, causing them to attack the body's own cells in the nervous system. In some cases, the virus is actually still present, and the body's nerve cells are merely accidentally damaged while the T-cells fight off the remaining infection. Either way, it is believed by some researchers that viruses may trigger multiple sclerosis in the first place.

While most causes of multiple sclerosis are out of the patient's control, one possible cause can in fact be controlled. The environment is one factor that is known to help determine whether one gets multiple sclerosis, as studies have shown that the farther a person lives from the equator, the higher the chances of this condition. This may be due to the fact that there is less sunlight farther from the equator, which causes the body to produce less vitamin D. Most studies show that those who move farther from the equator while still young increase their chances of developing multiple sclerosis, while those who move at an older age keep the same low risks. This finding may indicate that the environment plays a larger role in young people, and could eventually result in specific recommendations for for vitamin supplements for populations residing far from the equator.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGeek, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGeek, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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