Timothy L. Vollmer, MD
Professor, Department of Neurology
University of Colorado Health
Co-Director of the RMMSC at
Anschutz Medical Center
Medical DirectorRocky Mountain MS Center
We don't actually know this specific event that leads to multiple sclerosis. We know that genes play a role in developing MS, but the genes are interacting with something in the environment that ultimately determines whether person gets MS. It's what we call it complex genetic disease where there's no simple genes that actually causes the problem but it's more the way the genes and the environment interact.
And the environmental factor is that we think are important include such things as vitamin D and exposure to certain infection agents at a point later in life that would normally occur.
The logic data suggest that exposure to low serum levels of vitamin D in early life, possibly even in uteral, increases the risks of autoimmune diseases and young adult life. Which is the typical timeframe when MS presents.
It's an inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks the brain and a volatile repetitive fashion so patients will accumulate lesions over time and these will randomly hit the nervous system including the brain, the optic nerves and the spinal cord.
The most common symptom of MS is actually fatigue and the second most common is depression and then after that it's cognitive problems with memory and motor skills. Then sensory problems, motor problems, pain, bladder problems et cetera. It can affect essentially anything that the brain does.