What causes multiple sclerosis?

What causes multiple sclerosis?

THE ESSENTIAL

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
  • That is, the defense system (immune system) normally involved in fighting viruses and bacteria gets carried away and attacks the myelin, the protective sheath covering nerve fibers that plays an important role in transmitting nerve impulses from the brain to different parts of the body.

What causes multiple sclerosis? “This question is a bit difficult to answer because multiple sclerosis is a multifactorial disease. First of all, there are risk factors: being a woman, rather young, probably with hormonal involvement as in all autoimmune diseases,” explains Jérôme de Sèze, professor of neurology at the University Hospital of Strasbourg and specialist in autoimmune diseases and neuroophthalmology. “It is also a disease of developed countries, a disease of hygiene. The price of our drug, based on zero risk of infection, means that we see this disease emerging in regions where multiple sclerosis did not exist, like in Martinique in the 1960s for example. It’s also a disease of temperate countries because vitamin D and the sun probably play a role there,” adds the specialist.

A disease of young adults

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of young adults, often diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 35. The disease now affects 120,000 people in France and 3,000,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.

The occurrence of neurological disorders that affect various functions (motor skills, sensitivity, vision, balance, coordination of movements, etc.) and develop in initially regressive episodes is a strong indicator of multiple sclerosis. Doctors speak of inflammatory flare-ups “temporal and distributed in the central nervous system”.

But the symptoms can be much more deceptive, especially with mood issues (depression or manic disorder) that can produce bipolar disorder, while dealing with demyelination plaques that affect the limbic system and are located in the deep brain.

New therapies

“Multiple sclerosis is a serious disease. It’s true, when this diagnosis is made, patients either don’t know it, or they immediately see the disability, the cane and the wheelchair,” once again explains Jérôme de Sèze. “Nevertheless, it is a disease whose prognosis has completely changed in 20 years, thanks in particular to the introduction of new ultra-early and increasingly effective therapies that improve life comfort”, closes the specialist.

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