Is multiple sclerosis increasing?

The column:

Very interesting - I learned a lot.

I wonder why this appeared at the end of the last paragraph: “/p>” An editing artifact?

It is an HTML end paragraph tag that is missing its opening angle bracket. Browsers are pretty tolerant of many minor HTML errors, however, so it has not adversely affected the formatting.

Maybe it’s just a matter of keeping the column a reasonable length, but I would have been interested to hear the statistics on the incidence and prevalence increases broken down between relapsing-remitting MS (“the good kind” and the most common) and chronic-progressive MS – as well as whether these are still thought to be the same disease or different diseases with the same symptoms: one’s body attacking it’s own myelin.

My wife’s sister was diagnosed with chronic-progressive MS about twenty years ago, and she has gone from a healthy and vibrant 20-something to a quadriplegic who has difficulty speaking and swallowing her food. It’s an infuriating disease.

It is a terrible disease, indeed. As a boy, I watched my best friend’s father slowly collapse under its weight.

It is worth noting that MRI scans can show “white spots” in many peoples scans that are not MS. While careful neurologists realize this and defer a diagnosis of MS until clinical criteria are positive, I suspect that many people in the MRI era carry the label without the disease.

However, Cecil’s article describes an increasing incidence before the advent of common MRI’s.

I wonder if sunscreen has played a role?

I see it’s been fixed. Thanks!


I’m a medical researcher (although I work on cancer, not neurology) and I have MS myself (diagnosed alfway through my PhD). So, I’ve done a lot of reading about it. It’s a complex, multi-factorial disease. To get MS, someone needs to have a susceptible genetic background, which is only true for about 1% of the population (also complex - over 150 genes can influence how likely MS is). They also need to encounter a set of environmental triggers. These triggers can include low vitamin D levels before birth (particularly in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy), low vitamin D levels during childhood, head/neck injuries, emotional trauma and some viruses (EBV and shingles being likely suspects). Another environmental trigger is dietary saturated fat.
Typical diets have changed a lot over the last century and include far more meat and dairy produce than previously. Oils used in cooking are more heavily processed, leading to hydrogenation. Both of these factors mean higher intake of saturated fat. This may be a factor in the increasing prevalence of MS.

For those who know someone with MS, I highly recommend a great book called “Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: an evidence-based guide to recovery” written by Professor George Jelinek (an Australian medical doctor who has MS himself). It contains a lot of advice on ways to manage MS, all backed-up by fully-cited research. I’ve found it extremely helpful in managing my own illness.