Multiple sclerosis destroys the myelin sheath on the nerves. This eventually impacts on many areas in the body including the nervous system, muscles, bowels and bladder, eyes, speech and sex organs. So how do you develop MS? Is MS hereditary? Do some people have a higher risk of developing MS than others?
Research suggests that there are a number of factors which can increase the risk of a person developing multiple sclerosis but this does not mean that everyone that fits this criteria will go on to develop MS.
One of the major concerns parents with MS have is whether their children will go on to develop the disease. There are numerous research studies that are on-going trying to unlock the mysteries of MS some of which concentrate solely on attempting to answer this question.
Studies have found that although MS is not considered directly hereditary having a family member with MS increases your chances of developing the disease especially if that person is a parent or sibling. There is also some research to suggest that if the parent with MS is your father the risk is higher than if the parent with MS is your mother. It also suggests that the risks of the identical twin of a MS sufferer developing MS are only 25%.
Parents with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis need to be aware of the increased risks but can rest in the knowledge that approximately 80% of people with MS do not have a first relative with the disease and that there are others factors such as gender, ethnicity, environment (where you live) and age that play a role in whether a person develops MS or not, providing further answers to the question is MS hereditary.
Women are twice as likely to develop multiple sclerosis as men. Researchers are trying to determine whether hormones have a role in this bias of MS towards women.
Multiple sclerosis appears to be more likely to occur in Caucasians who are of northern European ancestry. It also appears to be less likely to occur in persons of Native Indian, South American, Japanese and other Asian ancestry. Research has shown that persons of Aborigine, Bantu, Maori, Gypsy or Inuit (Eskimo) descent may never develop multiple sclerosis. Why is there such a difference in prevalence between ethnic groups? Is there a genetic connection or is it something to do with where they live, how they live and what they eat?
Where you live can definitely have an impact on what you eat, how you live and to some extent external things that enter the body such as poisons and parasites. Where you live can also impact on the attitude you have towards your illness and can shape your coping mechanisms. Continuing studies in this area is providing vital information to answer is MS hereditary or not.
Scientists are currently studying whether the sun and Vitamin D provide a protective factor against MS for those living near the Equator.
MS commonly affects persons between the ages of 20 and 50 however as scientists continue to seek answers about multiple sclerosis and medical knowledge and techniques continue to improve they are discovering that there are older persons (50+) with MS in existence, some of whom have been living with the illness for about 24 years. They have also determined that MS can affect children and teens.