Healthy Living

Is Multiple Sclerosis Hereditary?

Is Multiple Sclerosis Hereditary?

Key Takeaways

  • Multiple sclerosis tends to affect those people living away from the equator.
  • Smoking has been shown from evidence to heighten the chances of developing multiple sclerosis.
  • Although multiple sclerosis has not yet been proved to be hereditary, people who have relatives such as their mother or brother with MS have higher chances of developing the disease. 

Research organizations were able to identify and pinpoint two genes that affect the development of multiple sclerosis. Seven genome screens of MS in November 2010 revealed that other complex genetic factors have associations with MS. For this reason, more research is called for to reveal the specific genes that have influence over MS. Variations in genetics dictate on the development of this disease and in some cases, it controls the course taken by the disease. Genetic factors have also been shown to affect the patients’ reaction to MS treatments. Some of the factors that have been speculated to be the causative agents of MS are:

  • Environmental
  • Genetic
  • Immunologic
  • Infectious

Environmental Factors

Multiple sclerosis tends to affect those people living away from the equator. Researchers on epidemiology are considering genetics, age, geography, ethnic background, migration patterns, gender, and infectious causes to understand the reason as to why this observation is made. People who migrate from areas with high multiple sclerosis incidences before they are 15 have a risk of developing the disease regarding the risk of the new area. Vitamin D is also a major significant factor as the people based in equatorial regions experience longer periods of exposure to sunlight throughout the year. The levels of vitamin D that has been developed naturally tend to be high among these people. Vitamin D assists in the functioning of the immune system and helps combat diseases that emanate from the immune system.

Smoking has been shown from evidence to heighten the chances of developing multiple sclerosis. It has been linked to severe cases of the disease and makes it progress rapidly. Those who quit smoking before or after developing multiple sclerosis have their progression of disability slowed down. Studying the epidemic of multiple sclerosis in particular regions and times can give speculations on the genetic or environmental risks posed. Researchers have not yet been able to present an up-to-date proof of the exact cause of multiple sclerosis.

Genetic Factors

Although multiple sclerosis has not yet been proved to be hereditary, people who have relatives such as their mother or brother with MS have higher chances of developing the disease. Certain genes have been shown from studies to be present in people with high multiple sclerosis rates. Some families having more than one MS patient have some genetic factors in common. A theory by researchers has been put forward, which claims that MS development is as a result of an inborn genetic predisposition. This genetic inclination reacts to a certain environmental agent, and when exposed, a response from the immune system is triggered. More research using sophisticated techniques is currently underway that is aimed at clearing the rumors and speculations surrounding the connection between genes and MS development.

Immunological Factors

The relapses of multiple sclerosis attack the myelin, which is the coating of the nerve fibers that make up the nervous system. The nerve fibers are also included in these attacks. Neurological researchers have successfully:

  • Identified the cells of the immune system that cause the attacks.
  • Determined some factors that cause the attacks.
  • Found some receptors on the attacking cells, which have a high affinity for myelin to start the process of destruction.

Studies in this area of immune-mediated processes are also ongoing, and researchers aim to answer a couple of questions that will assist them in comprehending the causes of multiple sclerosis.

Infectious Factors

When children grow up, they are exposed to different bacteria and viruses, which cause inflammation and demyelination. Hence, infectious agents such as viruses could be the triggers of multiple sclerosis. Research is being carried out to ascertain the involvement of numerous viruses and bacteria in the development of multiple sclerosis. There has been no evidence that acts as a proof of the ability of these agents in triggering MS.

The Play of Genetics and Other Factors

Multiple sclerosis has been a condition of concern through the years. It is still debatable whether it is hereditary or not. However, most of the studies point in the direction of it not being hereditary. Just like many other ailments, multiple sclerosis has also the influence of genes being passed on from one generation to another. On taking a closer look at it, we can understand that patients might be at a risk of developing multiple sclerosis if their immediate relatives such as their brothers, sisters, or either of their parents have the condition. The genetic contribution's susceptibility to multiple sclerosis is still an ongoing topic of research.

Demographics is said to also have an influence on people. A person's age, gender, and ethnicity influence them right from the time they are born. The geographic proximity to the equator reports lesser cases of multiple sclerosis. It could be due to the fact that places closer to the equator are hotter as they receive sunlight at its best. Since sunlight helps in the overall health of the skin as well as immunity and vitamin D synthesis, it might help in preventing immune-related disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

Certain infections could also cause severe health issues. Sometimes, a bacterial or viral infection during childhood might cause a change in the myelin sheath. If this change is detected at an early phase, medication can be given. In some cases, however, it goes unnoticed and the real symptoms in full swing manifest themselves after a number of years.

A combination of factors could be the possible cause of multiple sclerosis. There are times when too many factors together create an environment that is conducive to infections. One health problem leads to another and before you know it, the person succumbs to severe infections and ailments.

Prevention is the key. In your lifetime, you really do not know what illness might strike you. Therefore, it is important to get regular screenings done, while focusing equally on a healthy lifestyle, abstinence from bad habits that can affect your health, and maintaining an overall systematic routine that is devoid of stress and tension. Keeping all these in mind, and practicing good health monitoring is bound to reduce your chances of any illness and at the same time keep diseases at bay.