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The cause of MS is currently unknown. However, there are several factors which may increase the risk of developing MS.
Our bodies have a built-in defence system (the immune system) to fight infections caused by viruses and bacteria. Sometimes, this defence system starts attacking healthy cells in the body instead. This reaction, termed an autoimmune response, can cause MS when the body attacks nerve cells and myelin by mistake.
A defect in genes that control immune reactions or those that make up the CNS can increase the risk of developing MS. If you have a parent or sibling diagnosed with MS, you are at a slightly higher risk of developing the disease.
Onset usually occurs between the age of 20 to 50. However, MS can sometimes affect children, teenagers and older people.
Women are more likely to develop MS than men (approximately 2 to 3:1). The risk of developing MS is not related to pregnancy and women with MS can have children.
MS occurs more often in people of Northern European descent, and in countries in Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia. The closer the distance to the equator, the fewer the cases of MS reported. However, it does affect approximamtely more than 300 people in Singapore.
Lower exposure to sunlight and low levels of vitamin D have been associated with higher risk of developing MS.