I intend this blog to be a mixture of my personal experiences with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and news related to MS. Hopefully, I can shed an optimistic light on MS even though it is difficult to be an optimist living with MS.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stress and MS

I cannot believe that my last post was 9 days ago (I think that is the longest I have gone without posting since starting this blog)!  Last weekend, my family got together to celebrate my brother's wedding, I welcomed a new sister into the family, and we all had a great time!  This work week has been VERY busy, plus I played softball Tuesday evening and I played volleyball Thursday evening.  The evenings that I was at home, all I felt like doing was relaxing, so alas I am now 9 days since my last post and a little disappointed that it has taken me so long to get back to the blog.  That is life though!

With the stressors of life in full force, I was happy to learn that stress does not cause MS.  This article came to me through an email from the National MS Society:
Study: No Link Found Between Stess and Development of Multiple Sclerosis
A new study finds that stress does not appear to increase a person’s risk of developing MS. The study, published in the May 31, 2011 issue of Neurology, focused on two large groups of women involved in the Nurses’ Health Study, involving hundreds of thousands of female nurses followed over time. The nurses were asked to report on general stress at home and at work, as well as recall physical and sexual abuse in childhood and as teenagers. The investigators, led by Trond Riise, PhD (University of Bergen, Norway), concluded that their results do not support a major role of stress in the development of MS, but that more research is needed to definitely exclude stress as a potential risk factor for developing MS.
Background: Some studies have suggested that stress may be linked to MS exacerbations, or attacks, but there is still no conclusive evidence that links the two. There have been a few previous studies linking stressful events with the onset of MS, but there has not been definite evidence that stress could cause MS. This is the question posed in this study.
Details: With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Riise and collaborators focused on two Nurses’ Health Study groups, involving female nurses in the U.S. followed over time: the NHS1 included 121,700 nurses between the ages of 30-55 who have been followed from 1976. NHS2 included 116,671 nurses between the ages of 25-42 who have been followed from 1989. The participants had responded to past questionnaires about their history of stressful events. Later, a small proportion of the nurses developed MS, and the investigators were able to compare the answers about stressors between those who developed MS and those who did not.
The investigators found that those who later developed MS did not respond significantly different than those who did not develop MS in terms of their histories of general levels of stress or physical or sexual abuse. They accounted for other variables, such as smoking, that have been linked to increasing the risk of developing MS. The authors conclude that this study does not support a major role for stress in the development of MS, but suggest that further research is needed to definitely exclude stress as a risk factor for MS.
This was bittersweet to learn.  If they had found that stress causes MS, then at least I would have something to blame (I have an extremely Type A personaility and therefore am stressed much more often than not, plus law school and the legal profession do not held my stress level).  However, I would have been pretty frustrated to learn that stress causes MS, therefore this revelation is a little bittersweet.

I hope everyone reading is well!   I will try not to let so much time pass between this post and the next.

1 comment:

  1. An obstacle to research studies is that variables have to be analyzed individually. Personally, I believe that stress is a component of the onset of MS. Whether virus, diet, or environmental toxins are the cause, stress will intensify the gene expression. Cancer may be a good example. We all have cancer cells, but it takes something 'extra' to stress our system to cause the cancer to be 'expressed' or 'turned on'. Stress can change our gene expression in ways we are only beginning to understand.

    At least managing stress, or as I practice - radical self care, will diminish the impacts of MS on your life now!

    Stop by http://www.facebook.com/ThrivingWithMS
    if you're interested in learning practical stress management techniques to help live well while living with MS.