All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for June 2003

Gender issues in multiple sclerosis

Neurolog. 2002 Nov;8(6):351-6
Giesser BS.
UCLA School of Medicine, Reed Neurological Research Center, Los Angeles, California


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is primarily a disease of premenopausal women.

Interactions between the disease and the reproductive cycle are important to consider for optimal patient management.


Sex hormones are potent immunomodulators, and their actions may help explain the gender distribution seen in MS and other immune-mediated diseases.

Preliminary data suggest that immune function may vary cyclically as a function of hormonal milieu.

MS does not affect fertility or the ability to bear children, and pregnancy generally has a salutary effect on the disease.

Possible teratogenic actions of drugs used for symptom management and prophylactic treatment must be reviewed when managing patients.


Additional studies are needed to delineate the roles of sex hormones as etiologic (and possibly therapeutic) agents in MS.

Pharmacologic treatment of MS may impact reproductive function.

Neurologists need to be familiar with these issues to assist their patients in choosing therapies and family planning.