Multiple Sclerosis (MS) FAQs (cont.)
Who gets multiple sclerosis?
Approximately 400,000 Americans and millions of people worldwide have MS.
- The onset of MS typically occurs between the ages of 20-50 years. MS is the most common, disabling neurologic disorder in young adults.
- Women are about 2 times more likely than men to develop MS.
- The disease is more common in people who live farther from the equator, although the strength of this association has recently been questioned.
- MS occurs more frequently in whites with northern European ancestry. People living in North America, Europe, and Australia are more likely to develop MS than those living in Asia.
- Genetic factors play a role in MS. If a parent or a sibling has MS, the risk of developing MS is 3%. If an identical twin has MS, the risk of the other twin is 25-40%.
- Endocrine factors are also thought to play a role in MS. For instance, there is a decrease in the number of MS attacks during pregnancy. Within the 3 months that follow pregnancy, the chance of new MS attacks is higher. This fluctuation in disease severity is thought to be a response to hormonal changes that occur during the pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Carmel Armon, MD, MHS, MSc
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