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"Is Multiple Sclerosis hereditary?"


Is multiple sclerosis hereditary, or not? My mother has MS, and I want to be prepared for the worst. If it is hereditary, what symptoms should I watch for? And when should I expect it to occur? I'm 25 now, and I'm really trying to be cautious.


Multiple sclerosis is partially hereditary. There are many complex factors that contribute to development of MS, and their relative importance and interactions are not known. However, it is clear that siblings and children of people with MS have a higher risk of developing the disease than an average person.

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However, it is a very rare disease, so the risk of MS, even with a close family member, is still less than 5%. As you probably know from talking to your mother, multiple sclerosis is a variable disease which presents differently for every person. It is caused by the immune system attacking cells which insulate the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Similar to electrical wires, loss of the insulation causes signals to travel more slowly than normal. Common initial symptoms include visual problems, vertigo, numbness, and weakness. Age of onset is usually in young adulthood, generally before age forty, but it can occur later. You should make an appointment to discuss any symptoms with your physician, who will be able examine you for signs of neurological dysfunction. Your doctor can also help you to cope with anxiety related to your mother's diagnosis and your fears about your health.

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