Environmental triggers in multiple sclerosis. Fact or fallacy?

Axone. 1994 Sep;16(1):23-6.


Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune, demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. In the early, most common course of the disease there are seemingly random attacks or exacerbations usually followed by partial or complete recovery. It has long been postulated that environmental events such as infection, emotional stress, or trauma play some role in triggering exacerbations, worsening of the disease, or even the onset of MS. Indeed there have been monetary awards by the courts based on possible influence on the disease following motor vehicle accidents. This paper will describe a prospective study undertaken at the UBC MS Clinic evaluating the impact of infection, emotional stress, and physical trauma on the course of the disease in 50 relapsing-remitting patients participating in the Betaseron trial. During the first two years of the clinical trail this cohort kept diaries documenting environmental "events". The participants were evaluated clinically and with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) every six weeks. The potential triggers or events are correlated with disease activity seen on MRI, relapse occurrence and disease progression according to the neurological exam. The results of the study and their implications for patient counselling will be presented.

MeSH terms

  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Multiple Sclerosis / etiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors