For anyone suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS), one of the most frustrating parts of the disease is not knowing how, why, or when the disease began. Many patients with multiple sclerosis have had the disease and not known about it for years, others have had it diagnosed right out of the blue. People often wonder if it’s something they could have prevented or if maybe there was something they did that caused the disease. More often than not, these questions will remain unanswered because multiple sclerosis hasn’t been linked to a single cause. Most multiple sclerosis sufferers possess risk factors that make them more susceptible to developing the disease, hence its existence.
Researchers are always studying ways that multiple sclerosis can be prevented by looking more in-depth at the risk factors. As they learn more about what multiple sclerosis is and where it originates, they can begin to find ways to stop it before it develops, halt its progression, and hopefully reverse its damage. An interesting study was done that compared the diagnosis of infectious mononucleosis with the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. What researchers saw was a direct correlation in the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in people previously diagnosed with infectious mononucleosis (IN).
Now you may be thinking – if I had infectious mononucleosis, does this mean I am more likely to get multiple sclerosis? Well, no, this study was focused more on people currently suffering from infectious mononucleosis and suffering from vitamin D deficiency. See, multiple sclerosis a bit complicated, but let’s break it down.
Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps with our bone strength, our mental health, and our energy levels. Having optimal levels of vitamin D allows your body to recover easier because vitamin D aids in the fight against infection and bacteria. People with mononucleosis tend to stay inside during their illness, lessening their exposure to the suns vitamin D, and in turn making them more susceptible to multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D’s role in mononucleosis is fighting the illness while also keeping your body healthy. Anyone who has ever had infectious mononucleosis knows the illness will affect your regular life for up to two months. Recovering from infectious mononucleosis is a long process – even longer if you are deficient in vitamin D. When you think about it, vitamin D deficiency can play a role in a lot of different illnesses because you are lacking an essential vitamin required for healing. This is even more the case with mononucleosis and multiple sclerosis, which is why it should be monitored accordingly.
For anyone unfamiliar with mononucleosis, it is the “kissing disease”. It is spread through saliva, coughing, sneezing, or sharing food and drinks with someone infected. Mononucleosis can hospitalize some due to its characteristic exhaustion that makes it nearly impossible for someone to get out of bed. Although mononucleosis isn’t life threatening, there are complications that can occur such as an enlarged spleen, hepatitis from liver inflammation, and jaundice.
Mononucleosis isn’t nearly as contagious as other forms of the common cold and flu, but it should be taken as seriously as such. Most people who get mono once, won’t get it again. The most common cause of mononucleosis is the Epstein-Barr virus which, upon adulthood, most of us have been exposed to at one point or another. In is uncommon is adults because of the likelihood you’ve already been exposed and created antibodies.
How This Relates to Multiple Sclerosis
Although there is no known cause of multiple sclerosis, risk factors include a vitamin D deficiency. Being deficient in Vitamin D has long been known to play a role in susceptibility to multiple sclerosis, and vitamin D supplements are often prescribed to multiple sclerosis sufferers as an additional immune system booster. Because vitamin D deficiency can lead to multiple sclerosis and is also a result of IN, it’s only natural that researchers would look into a correlation between the two – and they found it.
multiple sclerosis sufferers benefit from being outdoors and absorbing the sunlight. multiple sclerosis sufferers also may become deficient in vitamin D after their diagnosis, and this could be because the body is using vitamin D more to help repair the body and fight the illness.
This study was conducted by UK primary care practice. This practice analyzed over 9200 cases of multiple sclerosis diagnoses and used over 55,000 controls in the study. The initial objective was to see if vitamin D deficiency and infectious mononucleosis had a direct correlation with the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. After researching the cases, it was determined that infectious mononucleosis was in fact, a risk factor for developing multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D deficiency is already a known risk factor to multiple sclerosis, so this wasn’t researched during the study.
The study did, however, find that patient who were vitamin deficient and suffering from infectious mononucleosis were at a high risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Anyone who has previously suffered from IM and vitamin D deficiency are also at a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis, however, not nearly as high as when IM is active in the body. What is interesting about the study is how it shows that timing really is everything when it comes to multiple sclerosis. Although there is no known “cause” aside from a genetic predisposition and risk factors, sometimes all it takes to develop is “right place, right time” logic.
It’s an unfortunate circumstance but it gives more insight on multiple sclerosis and its behavior in and on the body. It is important to keep in mind that, although this study has been completed, it is merely a research experiment. In order for experiments to gain credibility, it needs to be imitated successfully by multiple researchers. If and when multiple practices and research institutions imitate this research and receive the same findings, you can begin worry. This statement isn’t made to discredit the research done in any way, it is only to reassure readers to do their research instead of putting all their faith into one study.
Vitamin D deficiency, infectious mononucleosis, and multiple sclerosis can occur independently of one another and without correlation. You can have one or the other and not develop multiple sclerosis. Being diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency and infectious mononucleosis doesn’t mean you will develop multiple sclerosis within your lifetime, it merely heightens your risk of developing in comparison to the next person. You, in turn, are much more likely to get multiple sclerosis than someone who doesn’t currently or hasn’t suffered from those illnesses in the past.
When examining multiple sclerosis and risk factors, keep in mind that everything in relation to multiple sclerosis is just that – risk factors. There is no pinpoint cause as of yet on what definitively causes multiple sclerosis. Who knows, it might just be that multiple sclerosis doesn’t have a cause, it’s just a combination of factors combined to set your immune system out of whack. Only time and more research from institutions like these will give us more light on the shadows of multiple sclerosis.
If you think you may be suffering from mononucleosis or vitamin D deficiency, be sure to consult your doctor. This article isn’t meant to diagnose vitamin D deficiency or mononucleosis, it is merely meant to describe the conditions and how they relate and compare to multiple sclerosis.