5 Factors That Increase Your Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

General Neurology located in Albuquerque, NM

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5 Factors That Increase Your Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

A neurology specialist is a wise place to start if you or a loved one experience unexplained neurological symptoms. Getting answers paves the way for effective treatment.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a nervous system disorder marked by an unpredictable range of symptoms. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the insulation (myelin) that surrounds and protects nerves in the brain and the spinal cord. This can lead to neurodegeneration. MS symptoms vary widely from person to person, tend to fluctuate over time, and often progress in four stages

Symptoms include dizziness, cognitive impairment, fatigue, optic neuritis, pain, numbness/tingling, tremor, and weakness. Board-certified neurology specialist Timothy Ownbey, DO, leads the team at Neurology Specialists of Albuquerque in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders and diseases that affect the nervous system, including multiple sclerosis.

While researchers have yet to uncover the exact cause of multiple sclerosis, scientists have identified some risk factors. Keep in mind that having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that you will develop MS. 

1: The role of age

Although MS can develop at any age, some phases of life make you more vulnerable. Ages 20 to 50 are a crucial window of vulnerability. This is important to know for anyone who may be showing early symptoms. Early diagnosis and intervention tend to result in better management and quality of life.

2: The gender gap

Gender plays a role in MS susceptibility. Women are more likely to develop MS than men, and in recent years the gender difference has gotten even broader. In the 1950s women developed MS at a rate that was 1.4 times higher than men, and by the 1980s women were twice as likely to have MS than men. Today, women are up to three times more likely than males to develop relapsing-remitting MS — the most common type.

3: The family connection

The risk of MS is higher if a family member has it. If an immediate family member is diagnosed with MS, you have an increased chance of developing it, suggesting a potent genetic component. Genetic signals regulate immune system function, so it’s understandable that genes you inherit may play a role in your risk of developing immune-related conditions. 

4: Geographical considerations

Latitude isn't merely a point on a map when discussing MS. The disease's prevalence increases the further one moves away from the equator, both in the northern and southern hemispheres. Vitamin D, sourced mainly from sunlight, might play a pivotal role in this geographical puzzle.

As residents of Albuquerque, we fall into a higher risk zone due to our distance from the equator. Ensuring adequate Vitamin D intake, either through supplements or dietary means, can be a proactive measure to counteract this geographical risk factor.

5: Past infection with Epstein-Barr virus

Strong evidence suggests that infection with the Epstein-Barr virus may trigger multiple sclerosis. Recent research identified how the virus may trigger MS. It appears that part of the Epstein-Barr virus can mimic a protein produced in the brain and spinal cord. This triggers the immune system to respond by attacking the myelin layer that protects the brain and spinal cord.

Evaluation for multiple sclerosis

If you or a loved one is experiencing neurological symptoms, our team can perform a comprehensive evaluation to help determine the cause. If a diagnosis of MS is confirmed, treatment options are available and tailored to each patient. 

To learn more, call 505-302-2765 to schedule a visit with Neurology Specialists of Albuquerque.