There are many debates over the specific causes of multiple sclerosis. However, in the absence of conclusive evidence, medical scientists can only speculate upon the causes and risk factors behind multiple sclerosis and other similar autoimmune diseases. Although certain theories regarding a series of multiple sclerosis specific triggers have been partially confirmed by recent medical studies, doctors need additional data in order to identify the exact set of multiple sclerosis causes.
At present, medical scientists believe that genetic factors play a major role in the occurrence and development of multiple sclerosis. However, the specific genes involved in triggering the disease haven’t yet been identified. It is suspected that multiple sclerosis occurs due to a combination of genetic factors corroborated with a series of environmental factors. The autoimmune response characteristic to multiple sclerosis is also believed to be triggered by prolonged exposure to chemicals (long-term treatments with chemotherapeutic drugs are suspected to facilitate the development of multiple sclerosis) or by past infections.
The genetic theories regarding the occurrence of multiple sclerosis have been recently confirmed by medical investigations. The implication of genetic factors is primarily suggested by the pronounced hereditary character of the disease. Similar to other types of autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis can be easily transmitted from one generation to another. Recent studies in the field have identified the fact that blood relatives of patients with multiple sclerosis have 5 to 30 percent chances of developing the disease as well. While identical twins (sharing many genetic features) of patients with multiple sclerosis present the highest risk of developing the disease over time, the risks of inheriting multiple sclerosis are slightly lower for second and third degree relatives.
Another plausible theory incriminates infectious agents as the main triggers for multiple sclerosis. The implication of certain infectious agents in causing and sustaining the progression of multiple sclerosis may explain why this form of autoimmune disease tends to affect people of all ages and regardless of gender and ethnical provenience. Another reason why infectious agents are considered to have a major implication in multiple sclerosis consists in the similarities between the morphology of myelin and certain groups of infectious viral agents.
Some viral agents are very similar to myelin, the protein that is primarily destroyed in multiple sclerosis. These similarities may be the main reason why the immune system becomes confused and fights against healthy nerve cells covered in myelin. The categories of infectious agents believed to have a role in the development of multiple sclerosis are herpes viruses (HHV-6 – the cause of childhood roseola), Chlamydia Pneumoniae (atypical group of bacteria associated with inflammation of the circulatory system), the Epstein-Barr virus (responsible for causing mononucleosis), measles virus, retroviruses (HIV, HTLV-I, HTLV-II) and polyomavirus.