In the United States, between 250,000 and 350,000 people have multiple sclerosis, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disorder of the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord. Patients have inflammation that damages the myelin sheath in the central nervous system, resulting in nerve damage. The myelin sheath, which covers the axon of the neuron and helps facilitate neural communication, is made of oligodendrocytes; the myelin in the peripheral nervous system is made of Schwann cells and is not affected by multiple sclerosis. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis depend on where the inflammation occurs in the central nervous system. Examples of symptoms include problems walking, loss of balance, weakness, incontinence, double vision, vision loss, numbness, cognitive dysfunction, depression and sexual dysfunction.
Studies on multiple sclerosis have looked at the effects of stress on the disease. For example, MedlinePlus noted that stress can trigger attacks or make them worse; with multiple sclerosis, patients can have periods in which they have no symptoms or less severe symptoms. But can a stressful life make a person more likely to develop this neurological disorder? In a new study published in Neurology that included over 150,000 women, researchers could not find a link between a stressful life and a risk for multiple sclerosis, but also could not definitely rule out a connection as the study could not “account for all stressful life events and their impact on the body's disease-fighting systems,” reported Genevra Pittman of Reuters.