Skip to content

Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

Font Size

Multiple Sclerosis and Geographic Location - Topic Overview

The number of people who have multiple sclerosis (MS) increases the farther away they are from the equator.

In areas near the equator, MS occurs in fewer than 1 out of 100,000 people. In areas farther from the equator—such as northern Europe and northern North America—MS occurs in around 30 to 80 out of 100,000 people.1 When moving south of the equator, the number of people with MS is less dramatic, but the same trend is seen.

Recommended Related to Multiple Sclerosis

5 Myths and Facts About Multiple Sclerosis

If you're getting a lot of confusing advice about living with multiple sclerosis, you're not alone. Friends may be quick to offer suggestions, but sometimes they just repeat old myths. Getting the facts straight can help you lead a full life.

Read the 5 Myths and Facts About Multiple Sclerosis article > >

Some evidence suggests that people who move from a high-risk to a low-risk area before the age of 15 reduce their chances of developing MS. But the same is true in reverse. In those who move from a low-risk area to a high-risk area before the age of 15, the risk of getting MS increases. Those older than 15 when they move to a new area retain the risk associated with their old area.1

Most experts agree that this unusual relationship between geographic location and MS suggests that an environmental factor is partly responsible for causing the disease.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Multiple Sclerosis and Geographic Location Topics

    Today on WebMD

    nerve damage
    Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
    woman applying lotion
    Ideas on how to boost your mood and self-esteem.
     
    woman pondering
    Get personalized treatment options.
    man with hand over eye
    Be on the lookout for these symptoms.
     
    brain scan
    ARTICLE
    worried woman
    ARTICLE
     
    neural fiber
    ARTICLE
    white blood cells
    VIDEO
     
    sunlight in hands
    ARTICLE
    illustration of human spine
    ARTICLE
     
    muscle spasm
    ARTICLE
    green eyed woman with glasses
    ARTICLE
     

    WebMD Special Sections