Multiple Sclerosis | Causes & Risk Factors

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Who gets multiple sclerosis (MS)?

MS affects women more than twice as often as men. White (Caucasian) people are more likely to develop it than people of other races. If someone in your family--such as a parent or sibling--has MS, you have a greater risk of developing it, too. MS can affect people of any age, but it often begins between the ages of 20 and 40. If you have another autoimmune disease, such as thyroid disease or Type 1 diabetes, your risk of developing MS is slightly higher.

Some studies show that where you live can affect your risk of getting MS. People who spend their childhood in areas with a temperate climate, such as northern United States or southern Canada, seem to be at higher risk for MS.

What causes MS?

No one really knows for sure what causes MS. It’s most likely the result of a combination of environmental, viral and genetic factors. A number of different viruses have been linked to MS. A childhood virus may trigger MS later in life.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Created: 04/10

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