what causes multiple sclerosis?

THE ESSENTIAL

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

What causes multiple sclerosis? “It’s a bit difficult to answer this question, 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 Strasbourg University Hospital and specialist in autoimmune diseases and neuro-ophthalmology. “It is also a disease of developed countries, a disease of hygiene. The price to pay for our medicine based on zero infectious risk means that we have seen this disease emerge in regions where multiple sclerosis is n did not exist, as in the 1960s in Martinique for example. It is also a disease of temperate countries, because there is probably a role for vitamin D and the sun”, 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. 120,000 people in France are now affected by the disease, and 3,000,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

The appearance of neurological disorders affecting different functions (motricity, sensitivity, vision, balance, coordination of movements, etc.) and evolving in initially regressive flare-ups is highly suggestive of multiple sclerosis. Doctors speak of inflammatory flare-ups “disseminated in time and in the central nervous system”.

But the symptoms can be much more deceptive, especially in the event of mood problems (depression or manic disorder), which can evoke a bipolar disease, whereas it is about plaques of demyelination affecting the limbic system, located in the deep brain.

New therapies

“Multiple sclerosis is a disease with serious connotations. It is true that when this diagnosis is announced, either the patients do not know, or they immediately see the handicap, the cane and the wheelchair”, explains Jérôme de Sèze again. “That said, it is a disease whose prognosis has completely changed in 20 years thanks in particular to the arrival of new ultra-early and increasingly effective therapies, which improve the comfort of life”, concludes the specialist.

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