Is MS passed on genetically?

  • Medical Author:
    Danette C. Taylor, DO, MS, FACN

    Dr. Taylor has a passion for treating patients as individuals. In practice since 1994, she has a wide range of experience in treating patients with many types of movement disorders and dementias. In addition to patient care, she is actively involved in the training of residents and medical students, and has been both primary and secondary investigator in numerous research studies through the years. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine (Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology). She graduated with a BS degree from Alma College, and an MS (biomechanics) from Michigan State University. She received her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her internship and residency were completed at Botsford General Hospital. Additionally, she completed a fellowship in movement disorders with Dr. Peter LeWitt. She has been named a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychiatrists. She is board-certified in neurology by the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry. She has authored several articles and lectured extensively; she continues to write questions for two national medical boards. Dr. Taylor is a member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council (MSAC) of the Alzheimer's Association of Michigan, and is a reviewer for the journal Clinical Neuropharmacology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Reviewed on 10/10/2017

Ask the experts

Is multiple sclerosis passed on genetically?

Doctor's response

While multiple sclerosis is considered an autoimmune disorder, the exact cause hasn't yet been found. There are many theories regarding the reason that people develop MS. These theories range from vitamin D deficiency to a viral infection. Even consuming too much salt is being looked at as possible causes. However, none of these theories have been proven, and the cause of MS remains unknown. It's not contagious, and can't be passed from person to person.

Genetic factors don't seem to play a large role in the disease. Although people who have a first-degree relative with MS have a slightly higher risk of developing it themselves, this risk is felt to be modest. People who live in northern latitudes (especially Northern European countries) were previously identified as having a higher incidence of the disease. However, over the past 30 years, this has begun to change and more cases are now diagnosed in more temperate regions such as Latin America. It has further been identified that living in an area until approximately age 15 seems to give someone the relative risk of developing MS for that area. People younger than 15 who move assume the risk of the new location.

Lifestyle factors, for example,diet, exercise, tobacco use are not risk factors for developing this disease, unlike conditions in which these risk factors are very important, such as stroke, heart disease, or diabetes.

For more information, read our full medical article on multiple sclerosis symptoms, signs, treatment, and prognosis.

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Reviewed on 10/10/2017
References
"Pathogenesis and epidemiology of multiple sclerosis"
UpToDate.com
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