Is MS Hereditary?

Multiple Sclerosis: Is It Hereditary?

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects an individual’s nervous system. MS causes degeneration and demyelination of the nervous system. Demyelination is when the protection sheath that surrounds and protects the axons of the central nervous system is lost, due to an inflammatory reaction. A good way to think about this is to consider the nerve to be an electrical wire that runs from your brain to the periphery. Just like electrical wires, your nerves carry electricity from your brain to your muscles to create movement or from the sensors in your body to your brain to create awareness of heat, pain, cold, or sight. The myelin covers the nerve just as plastic covers the electrical wire. Demyelination is when that covering is removed, beginning with an inflammatory reaction within the nerve that is affected, which causes the nerve to malfunction and ends with nerve death. Individuals with multiple sclerosis lose the function that was carried out by that particular nerve.

So, is Multiple Sclerosis hereditary? That is a question that likely crosses the mind of every individual who has MS when they look at their children. The prevalence of MS diagnosis is in young adults between the ages of 20 to 40. MS is much more common in women, affecting approximately 50 percent more women than men. MS diagnosis is rarely seen in individuals under the age of 12 and over the age of 55.

The reports of whether or not Multiple Sclerosis is hereditary are actually quite conflicting. MS is an autoimmune disease and some believe that MS itself is not necessarily hereditary, autoimmune disease are. So, if someone in your family suffers from MS, they could be at a greater risk of contracting other autoimmune diseases, such as autoimmune thyroid disease or inflammatory bowel disease.

Also true is that the incidences of MS developing in the offspring of an individual who is suffering from MS is much higher. The chance of an individual developing MS is about 0.1 percent. However, a child who has one parent that is suffering from MS, their chances rise to about 2 percent. If both parents suffer from MS, the risk of that child developing MS rises to about 10 percent.

However, a solid link between MS and heredity has not been established. Genetics are a small factor involved in the explanation of MS. Just because you have a family member who suffers from MS does not automatically mean that you will be diagnosed with it as well.

So, MS is not considered a hereditary disease. There are some additional factors that are thought to cause MS: environmental factors and illnesses in childhood. Environmental factors that are thought to contribute to MS are smoking, lack of vitamin D, severe stress, and low uric acid levels.

Childhood illnesses don’t necessarily cause MS, however there have been several reports of those with MS testing positive for mono antibodies. This does not mean that because you had mono as a child/teen means that you will definitely develop MS, it just seems to increase your chances.