What causes MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) also known as disseminated sclerosis or encephalomyelitis disseminata, is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, leading to demyelination. It may cause numerous physical and mental symptoms, and often progresses to physical and cognitive disability. Disease onset usually occurs in young adults, is more common in women, and has a prevalence that ranges between 2 and 150 per 100,000 depending on the country or specific population.

Although much is known about the mechanisms involved in the disease process, the cause remains elusive: the most widely-held being that the condition results from attacks to the nervous system by the body’s own immune system. Some believe it is a metabolically dependent disease while others think that it might be caused by a virus such as Epstein-Barr. Still others believe that its virtual absence from the tropics points to a deficiency of vitamin D during childhood.

This disease does not have a cure, but several therapies have proven helpful. Treatments attempt to return function after an attack, prevent new attacks, and prevent disability. MS medications can have adverse effects or be poorly tolerated, and many patients pursue alternative treatments, despite the paucity of supporting scientific study.