What's your risk of multiple sclerosis (MS)? Find out the causes and symptoms of this chronic disease

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What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive, chronic disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It is the most frequent neurological disease in young and middle-aged adults in developed countries and has a lifelong impact,” says Multiple Sclerosis Australia CEO Debra Cerasa.

Cerasa says there are four types of MS, but that more than “80 per cent of people diagnosed with MS are diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS”.  This means that the symptoms of the disease are shown sporadically, but after about 10 years, “the majority of people enter a secondary progressive phase and their disability gradually accumulates”, says Cerasa.

What are the symptoms?

MS sufferers are likely to experience unpredictable excessive fatigue. Though Cerasa acknowledges this is a challenge of MS, she warns that MS is not “a death sentence – far from it”. Despite the lack of a cure, modern medication does allow sufferers to reduce the severity of the symptoms.

•    Blurred vision or even partial blindness
•    Pins and needles
•    Memory loss
•    Cognitive difficulties
•    Sharp pains
•    Fatigue
•    Bowel and bladder problems

Are you at risk?
Unfortunately, the cause of MS is still unknown. Still, continued research has shown “strong evidence linking MS to certain viruses, vitamin D deficiency and smoking”.

If you are a smoker, the risk of being diagnosed with MS is another wise reason to butt out; a 2001 Canadian case-control study detected an overall marginal increased  risk of developing MS in smokers. When it comes to genetics, Cerasa says that while though there is no single gene that causes MS, “we do know of 60 genetic variations that are linked to increased susceptibility to MS”.

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