Chronic Illness – Genetics, Environment, or Both?
The number of multiple sclerosis patients is increasing steadily. It has become commonplace to personally know more than one person suffering with this disease.
What causes Multiple Sclerosis (MS)? What makes some people more susceptible than others to this disease?
A number of resource sites theorize that along with genetics, there are environmental factors involved in the cause of MS. It makes sense that as environmental toxins increase, so will the number of people with MS. The evidence seems to be building: environmental factors play havoc on the autoimmune system; toxins can trigger and/or worsen MS; and even something as simple as where we live can increase our risk factor for developing MS. Let’s look at three sources that will help explain these current theories.
Genetics and the Environment Work Together to Trigger Multiple Sclerosis
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center:
A combination of environmental and genetic factors likely plays a role in causing MS. A current theory is that the disease occurs in people with a genetic susceptibility who are exposed to some environmental assault (a virus or a toxin) that disrupts the blood-brain barrier. Immune factors converge in the nerve cells, triggering inflammation and an autoimmune attack (a self-attack) on myelin and axons.
Cigarette Smoking and Multiple Sclerosis
A study from The Multiple Sclerosis Resource Center sheds light on the dangers of cigarette smoking and MS:
Persons with multiple sclerosis who smoked for a little as six months during their lifetime had more destruction of brain tissue and more brain atrophy than MS patients who never smoked, a study by neuroimaging specialists at the University at Buffalo has shown.
Research published in the Aug. 18, 2009, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, showed that “ever-smokers” had more brain lesions and greater loss of brain volume, as well as higher scores on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), than MS patients who had no history of smoking.
“Cigarette smoking is one of the most compelling environmental risk factors linked to the development and worsening of MS,” said Robert Zivadinov, M.D., Ph.D., UB professor of neurology, director of the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center (BNAC) where the research was conducted and first author on the study.
Climate, Environmental Factors, and Multiple Sclerosis
Research and observations by UCSF Multiple Sclerosis Center show climate, diet, and sunlight may play an important role in MS:
The environmental theory proposes that an environmental factor triggers the symptoms of MS. Support for this theory includes the observation that multiple sclerosis is diagnosed more frequently in temperate than tropical or subtropical climates. A map of the United States shows that the prevalence of MS increases with northern latitude. For example, the prevalence of MS in North Dakota is approximately twice that observed in Florida. The prevalence of MS in northern California is 150 cases per 100,000 individuals.
The relationship between latitude and prevalence of MS is also evident in other countries throughout Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. Investigators have explored the possibility that exposure to viral or bacterial infections, environmental toxins, duration of sunlight, changes in temperature and humidity, or diet might in some way produce or aggravate MS. To date, no specific environmental factor has been proven to cause MS.
What Conclusions can We Draw About the Causes and Increase of Multiple Sclerosis?
The research mentioned here, whether in fact or theory, points in the same direction: our environment plays a part in our health. The number of people with multiple sclerosis, lupus, chronic fatigue, autism, and a list of other disabling chronic illnesses and disorders is increasing year by year. It’s not difficult to take that logical step and determine there must be an environmental link contributing to this increase.
To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis you can visit:
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Until next time,
Author, Ghostwriter, Freelance writer,
Acquisitions Editor Intern for 4RV Publishing
Karen Cioffi Writing for Children and More