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JOURNAL: The British Medical Journal
AUTHORS: Rogier Hintzen
ABSTRACT: Stressful events, such as the death of a loved one, financial worries or job problems, can exacerbate symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
COMMENTARY: In a study reported in The British Medical Journal, researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam found that stress was linked with double the risk of an increase in the severity of symptoms of the auto-immune disease.
"The knowledge that stressful events are associated with disease activity adds important information to the limited insight that patients and their caregivers have on this unpredictable disease," said Rogier Hintzen, a neurologist at the center.
MS is a chronic, progressive disease that occurs when immune system cells attack and destroy the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It affects about a million people worldwide.
Twice as many women as men suffer from MS, which can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms such as tingling, fatigue, loss of balance and slurred speech are intermittent.
The illness is more common in people living in colder climates and rare in Africa and Asia. Its cause is unknown and there is no cure.
Hintzen and his team, who questioned 73 MS patients, said they did not find any increase in infections after stressful events.
But one stressful event during a period of four weeks was associated with double the risk of exacerbation within the next week.