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Are you at risk for multiple sclerosis?

Facing a life-altering diagnosis is intimidating but important. Early detection of all ailments is crucial to the management and treatment of a disease. This is also true if you’re concerned that you’re experiencing symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). While MS has no cure, it is treatable and about one-million Americans live with MS every day.

What makes MS difficult is that there is no one cause of the disease. However, there are certain people who are more at risk for MS than others. You have a higher risk for developing MS if you:

  • Are between 20 and 50 years old: MS can develop anytime but mostly commonly surfaces between your teenage and middle age years.
  • Are a woman: Women are up to three times more likely to develop MS than men.
  • Have a genetic predisposition: This means that you are more likely to develop MS if you have an immediately family member with an MS diagnosis or are of Northern European descent.

Common risk factors for MS

Maybe you have one or two of these risk factors. Perhaps you have none or all three of these risk factors. Regardless, there are steps you can take to help prevent MS. Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Stop smoking. Research has linked smoking to everything from cancer to heart disease to emphysema. Did you know smokers have a higher risk for developing MS as well? If you were looking for motivation to quit, maybe this is it.
  • Get enough Vitamin D. Those who are deficient in Vitamin D due to lack of exposure to sunlight or dietary reasons are at greater risk for MS. If you’re deficient, talking to your doctor about increasing your Vitamin D intake. You may be more likely to experience a Vitamin D deficiency in a Northern Climate.
  • Manage your autoimmune diseases and infections. If you have conditions like mono, type 1 diabetes, or thyroid disease, make sure you’re following your doctor’s treatment plan. Having conditions like these can increase your chances for developing MS.

MS is more common than you think

You may be scared that an MS diagnosis will cause you to feel like an outsider, but chances are that someone you know has MS. While MS can be disabling, it is manageable and can continue to work if you are comfortable doing so. Your employer may offer disability benefits should you need them someday.

If you’re looking for more answers, the National MS Society has many support resources available to you.

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