Vascular comorbidities in the onset and progression of multiple sclerosis

J Neurol Sci. 2014 Dec 15;347(1-2):23-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2014.10.020. Epub 2014 Oct 16.


Vascular comorbidities are common in the general population and are associated with adverse health outcomes. In people with multiple sclerosis (MS), an increasing amount of evidence suggests that vascular comorbidities are also common, but an association with MS risk and disability has not been conclusively established. This review aims to critically examine published data on the relationship between vascular comorbidities (including vascular risk factors) and MS. The evidence suggests an increased risk of MS in people with a high BMI during childhood or adolescence but not adulthood. People with established MS appear to have a slightly increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a greater proportion of people with MS die from cardiovascular disease, which has important implications for clinicians trying to identify risk factors for cardiovascular disease and reviewing treatment options. In relation to whether vascular comorbidities influence MS clinical disability or other aspects of the disease course, the key finding was that having type-2-diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidaemia or peripheral vascular disease at any point in the disease course may be associated with a greater progression in disability. Additionally, a negative effect of high cholesterol and triglycerides and a positive effect of higher HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels on acute inflammatory activity were observed on magnetic resonance imaging. The results of the published clinical trials of statins as an intervention in MS were however conflicting and care needs to be taken when treating people with MS with statins. Taken together, the literature seems to indicate a potential association of vascular comorbidities with MS risk and disability, but the number of prospective studies was sparse, thus precluding ascription of causality. We therefore recommend that future studies of the frequency and effects of vascular comorbidities on MS risk and disability should be prospective and objective where relevant.

Keywords: Comorbidities; Disability; Lipids; Multiple sclerosis; Obesity; Statins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Child
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Comorbidity
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology
  • Disease Progression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / blood
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / blood
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Triglycerides