Is stress a trigger for multiple sclerosis?

Stressful life events and the risk of initial central nervous system demyelination

Saul A, Ponsonby AL, Lucas RM, et al.

Mult Scler 2017; 23:1000-1007

Abstract

Background:

There is substantial evidence that stress increases multiple sclerosis disease activity, but limited evidence on its association with the onset of multiple sclerosis.

Objective:

To examine the association between stressful life events and risk of first demyelinating event (FDE).

Methods:

This was a multicentre incident case-control study. Cases ( n = 282 with first diagnosis of central nervous system (CNS) demyelination, including n = 216 with ‘classic FDE’) were aged 18-59 years. Controls without CNS demyelination ( n = 558) were matched to cases on age, sex and study region. Stressful life events were assessed using a questionnaire based on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale.

Results:

Those who suffered from a serious illness in the previous 12 months were more likely to have an FDE (odds ratio (OR) = 2.35 (1.36, 4.06), p = 0.002), and when we limited our reference group to those who had no stressful life events, the magnitude of effect became stronger (OR = 5.41 (1.80, 16.28)). The total stress number and stress load were not convincingly associated with the risk of an FDE.

Conclusions:

Cases were more likely to report a serious illness in the previous 12 months, which could suggest that a non-specific illness provides an additional strain to an already predisposed immune system.


This reference is cited in the neurochecklist:

Multiple sclerosis (MS): risk factors

Abstract link

Stress. bottled_void on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/22964099@N05/2204059683
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