Multiple sclerosis (MS) flare-ups can be provoked by stress, according to research.
The incurable disease, which affects the brain and spinal cord, can cause trouble walking and muscle spasms, as well as blurred vision, eye pain, incontinence, and melancholy.
The vast majority of MS patients experience relapsing and remitting symptoms, with many going months without experiencing them.
Now, researchers believe they have discovered a distinct link between stress and the problems’ recurrence.
More than 700 MS patients were analyzed by researchers at the University of Michigan for their symptomatology. The researchers found that stressors like poverty, abuse, and divorce increased the likelihood of frequent, severe flare-ups.
Referrals to resources, such as mental health or substance-use support, could minimize the impact of stress and improve well-being, according to Dr. Tiffany Braley, an expert on multiple sclerosis at the University of Michigan in the United States and co-author of the study.
However, according to specialists, it is still unclear why stress exacerbates MS symptoms.
According to Dr. Catherine Godbold, research communications manager at the MS Society, “this study does not examine the physiological mechanism by which stress causes MS relapses.”
It is possible that stress is not the true cause, but rather that it contributes to other harmful behaviors. Such as smoking or poor sleep, that increase the risk of relapses.
According to University of Michigan researchers, the next stage will examine how these other factors affect MS flare-ups.