Environmental factors and MS

Hi - I just wondered if anyone had any thoughts on the following for me.

Basically I am currently in limboland and I found out the other day that a friend at work is going through similar to me but her Neuro believes that she has CIS (Clinically Isolated Syndrome). She has numbness in her face and her optician has told her she has Optic Neuritis and is at severe risk of shortly going blind if she does not take steroids. She did have an MRI back in March when her symptoms started and they found lots of inflammation on her brain and she is now waiting for a futher MRI. Now the key is that her Neuro believes it is CIS as she is Bangaldeshi and as she was born there and lived the early years of her life there they say it is unlikely to be MS. I have read up on MS and have read that people who are born/live nearer the equator are less likely to develop MS.

I suppose I just wondered if anyone else knew more about this or if anyone knew of anyone who was born nearer the equator who had MS. I am just worried about my friend as she has now totally ruled MS out but perhaps she is right to do that.



CIS can develop into MS. Sometimes it never does - but it can. I can’t remember the figures off the top of my head but I have read about this.

I have also read about people living nearer the equator being less at risk of MS than those countries further away but not entirely safe from it, just less likely.

People living in Scotland have a higher rate of MS and there was a ‘Shine On Scotland’ campaign for people to get more vitamin D through natural sunlight.

As far as I know, where you grow up is a risk factor like any other: there’s nothing deterministic about it; it just shifts the probabilities a bit. In other words, growing up near the equator with lots of sun reduces your risk; it does not eliminate it. Other things count too. But the neuro will no doubt have done his or her homework, so might have come to a view on the basis do all sorts of factors, not just this one. May I just add that, where I live, they do not like to give steroids for ON at all because they think it makes diddly squat difference to recovery. Alison x

Thanx for the responses guys. As I say, I am just worried that now the Neuro and the MS nurse she saw said it is probably not MS that she has completely ruled it out of her head and she is all happy. I don’t want her to then break if it all changes I suppose as her symptoms seem to be getting slightly worse.


If your friend lived in Bangladesh until she was at least 16, then her chances of this being MS are lower, but as the others have already said, it doesn’t rule it out. (The reason for the lower risk is vitamin D3: deficiency in the womb and while growing up is a factor in developing MS.) I’m a bit confused about the CIS, but not MS thing. As far as I know, CIS is effectively a one off MS attack. Someone with a lot of lesions from that attack is at a very high risk of developing MS. So “lots of inflammation” and “unlikely to be MS” are phrases that generally do not go with “CIS”. It is possible to get one off demyelinating attacks that are not MS-related. Perhaps this is what the neuros think your friend has? Either way, probably all you can do is be there for her, if things don’t go as she hopes. Karen x

Thanks for the response Karen - all of what you said made huge sense to me and was kind of what I was thinking but didn’t want to dishearten my friend. As I say, I too am in limboland and waiting further MRI scans as I had only 1 lesion back in June when I had my first attack. It was a great comfort to both of us when we exchanged symptoms, etc, but now the Neuro has told her it is most likely CIS she is insitent that it is not MS in both our cases. I suppose I just wanted to ask others their opinions as in the back of my mind I was confused as my Neuro had never mentioned CIS to me.

As you say, I hope things go the way she wants and I will be there no matter what.

Thanx again for all the support guys