The number of women being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in Canada is growing faster than the incidence among men, say researchers who suspect an environmental link. Multiple sclerosis (abbreviated MS, also known as disseminated sclerosis) is a chronic, inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS).
MS can cause a variety of symptoms, including changes in sensation, visual problems, muscle weakness, depression, difficulties with coordination and speech, severe fatigue, and pain. Although many patients lead full and rewarding lives, MS can cause impaired mobility and disability in the more severe cases.
The researchers, led by Dr. George Ebers of Oxford University, examined Canadian data on multiple sclerosis sufferers. They also found that this gender ratio has been rising for at least 50 years.
The Canadian research shows:
In 1931, for every one man diagnosed with MS, 1.8 women received the diagnosis.
Around 1940, the picture starts to change. The rate of MS cases in men stays relatively the same, but in women, it rises.
And by 1980, for every one man diagnosed, more than three women develop MS.
The team that conducted the research into the Canadian multiple sclerosis data is speculating that an unknown contributing factor has emerged in the last half century to make MS a female-dominated disease. The findings will appear in the November edition of the Lancet’s neurology journal.