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What causes multiple sclerosis? What we know, don’t know and suspect

Young women are disproportionately affected by multiple sclerosis, a disease where the body attacks the brain, scrambling communication to the rest of the body. Here’s what we know about the causes.

US actress Selma Blair announced on the weekend she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “I have probably had this incurable disease for 15 years at least,” she wrote. “And I am relieved to at least know.”

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, where the body mistakenly attacks the brain and spinal cord. It does this by damaging myelin – the protective coating around the nerves. When myelin is damaged, messages can no longer be clearly transmitted from the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body.

The resulting symptoms include extreme tiredness, loss of concentration and memory, numbness, sensitivity to heat and cold, difficulties walking and balancing, spasms, dizziness and low mood.

Read on: What causes multiple sclerosis? What we know, don't know and suspect

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