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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) (cont.)

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What are the risk factors for developing MS?

Multiples sclerosis occurs predominantly in younger persons, with those aged 15 to 45 most likely to be diagnosed. The average age of diagnosis is about 30 years; however, multiple sclerosis has been identified at all ages. While multiple sclerosis can occur in children, this is very rare.

About 2.5 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; of those, about 400,000 live in the United States. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop multiple sclerosis.

Genetic factors don't seem to play a large role in multiple sclerosis. Although people who have a first-degree relative with multiple sclerosis have a slightly higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis 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 multiple sclerosis. However, over the past 30 years, this has begun to change and more cases of multiple sclerosis 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 multiple sclerosis for that area. Persons younger than 15 who move assume the risk of the new location.

Lifestyle factors -- diet, exercise, tobacco use -- do not play a role in the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, unlike conditions such as stroke, heart disease, or diabetes, where these factors are very important.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2015


Multiple Sclerosis

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