impact of smoking on multiple sclerosis

Five ways smoking can impact multiple sclerosis

Today is National No Smoking Day. Have you ever wondered how smoking can affect multiple sclerosis? Do you need help quitting? Read on…

1. Developing MS

Research as shown that the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) is three times greater in male smokers compared to male non-smokers, and for women, the risk is one and a half times greater. It is thought that smoking may damage the cells which line blood vessels and these damaged cells cause the vessels to leak, allowing the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke to damage the brain.

2. Disability progression

In a study, researchers found current or former smokers with relapsing remitting MS were three times more likely to develop secondary progressive MS, another phase of MS marked by a steady increase in MS symptoms and disability, compared to non- or past smokers. However, quitting smoking is something that has been shown to slow disability progression.

3. Passive smoking in childhood

A study revealed that 62% of the people diagnosed with MS had been exposed to parental smoking as children, compared to 45% of people diagnosed with MS, whose parents did not smoke. The research also pointed to a time-related correlation between the increase in the risk of developing MS as an adult and the length of time a child had been exposed to passive smoking.

4. It can impact treatment

For people taking the disease modifying drug Tysabri (natalizumab), there is evidence that smoking increases the risk of the body developing neutralising antibodies to the therapy, causing the drug to have little or no therapeutic effect. A study revealed the risk for developing neutralising antibodies was over twice as high in smokers, compared to non-smokers.

5. Smoking doesn’t relieve stress

Although stress is a well-known MS trigger and it can exacerbate symptoms, smoking does not have therapeutic benefits. Research has shown that people who smoke have higher stress levels than those who don’t.

To find out more information about how smoking can impact multiple sclerosis, read or download our Choices booklet.

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