Medical Q&As

Multiple sclerosis - risk of inheritance?

Both my uncle and aunt on my motherís side have suffered and died from multiple sclerosis. I am 32-year-old male and am worried that my chances of having this disease are heightened. Any kind of strange sensation in my legs causes me anxiety. Is there any way of checking whether or not I should be worried or not?

There is an increased incidence of MS (multiple sclerosis) amongst the first-degree relatives of sufferers with MS. Since you are referring to an uncle and aunt with MS the risk of you developing the disease would be less than for a first degree relative but would still be marginally higher than would be the case for somebody with no family history of MS. In summary you are at increased risk but the increased level of risk is marginal. Recent studies indicate that MS develops as a result of a combination of factors rather than a single gene or other agent. It is of multifactorial origin, which means that several factors have to be operating in a given individual in order for that person to develop the disease. I can understand your concerns about MS especially when two of your family members have died from the disease. They must have had a virulent form of the disease but that would not be the common experience for most MS sufferers. Given our current state of knowledge MS cannot be prevented and the tests we have available simply establish that you either have it or you donít. I am not aware of any test that can predict if you were likely to get it. I would suggest that you visit your GP, discuss your concerns and perhaps request a general check up in order to establish that you are well.