the United States. Um, so we know that location plays a part. We also know that genetics plays a part, but ms is not a directly inherited disease. So if we think about a disease like sickle cell, we know that if the mom has a gene, the dad has a gene, we can predict that one in four of the children will have the disease.
But with multiple sclerosis, there are over 200 genes in different locations that are associated with risk. And so I have some families where multiple people have MS and I have some families where that person is the only person. So the genetics are not really predictable in terms of who would develop it.
And then finally there are some environmental factors that we think may be related to MS. Smoking is a risk factor. We also have learned more recently that obesity is a risk factor and also ms is much more common in women than men. So there are a lot of theories around estrogen and hormones and if they may or may not be related to increased risk.
Um, one of the interesting things is that we found over the past five years or so, there are some studies that suggest that African Americans are at the highest risk for MS. And this is news because we used to think that black people did not get MS.
And so there was a study published in 2013 that suggested that the risk was 47% higher in African American women than in Caucasian women in the U.S.
MS is diagnosed by a couple of different things. So it’s a combination of the person’s history, um, the symptoms that they report to their doctor, their physical exam, and also imaging such as MRI. So a person has to have a typical history of symptoms that are like multiple sclerosis, which include let’s say numbness or tingling that lasted for several weeks and improved.