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Health Information Center

Risk Factors for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Risk Factors for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

A risk factor is something that raises the chances of getting a health problem. A person can get MS with or without the risk factors listed below. The chances of getting MS are greater in people who have many risk factors.

MS is more common in people between the ages of 16 and 40. This is when MS is most often found. It is also more common in people of European descent.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Milk that has vitamin D added
  • Cod liver oil

The sun also triggers a person's body to make vitamin D.

Health Problems

A viral infection may trigger MS. Researchers have been looking into human herpes virus-6 and Epstein-Barr virus. Some believe that it is the way some people respond to the virus that may trigger MS.

People who have had optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve) have a high risk.


  • Multiple sclerosis (MS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/multiple-sclerosis-ms.
  • NINDS multiple sclerosis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Multiple-Sclerosis-Information-Page.
  • What is MS? National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS.


  • James Cornell, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.