The Connection Between Where You Live And Developing Multiple Sclerosis — What To Consider

Targeting the body's central nervous system, multiple sclerosis (MS) is the result of nerve coating damage that disrupts communication between the brain and spinal cord (via SingleCare). The condition continues to advance as time goes on, leading to potential symptoms such as sight issues, difficulty with balance and coordination, excessive fatigue, speech problems, and tremors. While MS is not curable, treatment methods center around symptom reduction and minimizing patient physical impairment.

Every five minutes, a new MS diagnosis is made across the globe. This amounts to approximately 300 new cases per day worldwide. However, some people may be more prone to MS than others. Those who smoke, are diagnosed with certain health conditions, experience immune system dysfunction, or have a family medical history of MS may be at an increased risk for developing the disease. However, some evidence suggests that certain environmental factors may also influence a person's susceptibility to MS. This includes one's geographical location.

Regions with the highest rates of MS worldwide

Generally speaking, the greater the distance from the equator, the greater the rates of MS amongst these communities, according to experts at MyMSTeam. Conversely, MS is highly uncommon in areas situated nearer to the equator. Even more, relocating from a low-risk region to a higher-risk region before reaching puberty has also shown to be a risk factor. While the relationship between location and MS prevalence is not entirely understood, experts believe it may be tied to regional differences in temperature, diet, and vitamin D exposure. Specifically, MS has been linked with decreased levels of vitamin D in the body. Therefore, because people nearer to the equator have continual exposure to sunlight, they have increased levels of vitamin D compared to those further from the equator.

Research from the MS International Federation shows rates of MS to be highest within Europe and the U.S. Zeroing in even further, San Marino (a region in central Italy) and Germany have the highest global rates of MS, with the U.S. having the third highest rates worldwide. Regions of Africa and Southeast Asia were shown to be among those with the lowest prevalence of MS.

Highest rates of MS in U.S.

In a closer look at the U.S., SingleCare cites research from 2017 showing Alabama, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania to be among the states found to have the greatest number of MS cases across the country. When comparing cities, Syracuse, New York proved to have the greatest number of people diagnosed with MS.

Treatment methods for the disease can vary on a case-by-case basis. This may include the use of corticosteroids to target inflammation or plasma exchange to reduce flare-ups, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Oral or intravenous medications, as well as infusion therapies may also be used. Many of these treatments may help minimize disease progression and relapse. In addition, some patients and their loved ones may find benefit in supplemental treatments, like occupational therapy, stress management, relaxation training, counseling services, or support groups.