In multiple sclerosis, damage to the myelin in the central nervous system (CNS) — and to the nerve fibers themselves — interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord and other parts of the body.
The cause of MS is still unknown, however scientists believe that the interaction of several different factors may be involved. Understanding what causes MS will speed the process of finding more effective ways to treat it and — ultimately — cure it, or even prevent it from occurring in the first place.
There are four factors that the National Multiple Sclerosis Society points out.
- Immunologic Factors – an abnormal immune-mediated response attacks the myelin coating around nerve fibers in the central nervous system, as well as the nerve fibers themselves.
- Environmental Factors – MS is known to occur more frequently in areas that are farther from the equator
- Infectious Factors – Since initial exposure to numerous viruses, bacteria and other microbes occurs during childhood, and since viruses are well-recognized as causes of demyelination and inflammation, it is possible that a virus or other infectious agent is the triggering factor in MS
- Genetic Factors – While MS is not hereditary, having a first-degree relative such as a parent or sibling with MS does significantly increase an individual’s risk of developing the disease.