Smoking May Help Speed up MS Symptoms

Multiple sclerosis in itself can be a pretty hard condition to cope up with, depending on the symptoms that they show on certain people. But no doubt, MS can really have a significant effect on a person’s way of life. It seems that smoking may be some thing that people with multiple sclerosis should learn to do without or it can affect their condition greatly.

Aside from the known hazards that smoking can bring to one’s health, a study also seems to indicate that this dangerous habit may also cause multiple sclerosis to go into a rapid progression. This is apart from other recent studies that indicate smokers are at a higher risk of developing MS. This said study aimed to look into the effects of smoking related to the progression of MS.

The study was conducted by doctors in Boston, Massachusetts headed by Dr. Brian C. Healy, Ph.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. The study consisted of researchers studying 1,465 MS patients that visited an MS referral center from February 2006 to August 2007. Participants of the said study had an average age of 42 and have suffered from MS for an average period of 9.4 years. The progression of their condition was evaluated by clinical characteristics as well as by MRI scans over an average period of 3.29 years.

In the said study, around 780 participants are non-smokers while 428 have smoked in the past. Another 257 participants were known to be active smokers. There were also seven non-smokers who eventually started smoking while 57 smokers quite the habit during the follow-up study. The study also indicated that the active smokers experienced a more severe level of multiple sclerosis at the beginning of the study in terms of disability scores as well as the analysis of MRI factors. The active smokers were likely to suffer from the primary progressive type of MS which is characterized by a steady decline rather than the more common relapsing-remitting type MS which is characterized by alternating periods of attacks and being symptom free.

During the course of the study, 891 participants were evaluated over time concerning the rate of conversion from relapsing-remitting MS to secondary progressive MS which usually develops after a period of relapsing-remitting symptoms. After a span of3.34 years, the researchers found out that a total of 72 patients experienced the said progression. The total was divided among the following groups- 20 out of 154 smokers, 20 out of 237 ex-smokers and 32 of 500 non-smokers. This indicated that the rate of conversion from relapsing-remitting MS to secondary progressive MS seems to occur faster among the active smokers as compared to the non-smokers. The rate of conversion on the other hand, seems relatively similar between ex-smokers and non-smokers.

The findings of the said study seem consistent with previous research regarding the effect of cigarette smoke on the brain and the neural tissues. Certain chemicals such as cyanides that are found in cigarette smoke have been associated with the damage done to the myelin coating that protects the nerve cells. Other chemicals in cigarette smoke may also compromise the blood-brain barrier or may worsen the effects of certain respiratory infections which also have been linked to MS certain risks.


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