Objective: To determine if sex hormones play a role in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS) by correlating serum estradiol and progesterone levels with gadolinium (Gd) enhancing lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in MS.
Methods: Thirty patients with MS were studied with Gd enhanced brain MRI and simultaneous serum estradiol and progesterone levels either during the early follicular, late follicular or luteal phases of their menstrual cycle. Correlation between hormone levels and number of Gd enhancing lesions was determined.
Results: Patients with high estradiol and low progesterone levels had a significantly greater number of Gd enhancing lesions than those with low levels of both these hormones. Patients with a high estrogen to progesterone ratio had a significantly greater number of active MRI lesions than those with a low ratio.
Conclusion: Estradiol and progesterone may influence disease activity in MS. If further studies confirm these results, it may be possible to develop therapy by altering levels of these hormones.