Selected from the recently published textbook, Multiple Sclerosis for the Non-Neurologist, this chapter on Epidemiology discusses genetic and environmental risk factors, both infectious and noninfectious, that are associated with MS development.
The etiology of multiple sclerosis (MS) is complex and not fully understood, but there have been various environmental and genetic factors associated with increased MS risk. The prevailing thought is that MS is an autoimmune disorder whereby either viral or environmental agents, or both, trigger a T cell–mediated inflammatory attack, causing demyelination in the central nervous system (CNS). This is thought to result from a complex interplay between genes and the environment. The environmental factors most thought to be involved are vitamin D and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Obesity, particularly when present early in life, appears to play a role. Cigarette smoking also has been linked.
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