A current study published in the Archives of Neurology* suggests the effects of smoking contribute to a faster progression of multiple sclerosis – or MS. Past studies have shown cigarette smokers have an increased chance of developing the disease.
Researchers from the Harvard schools of medicine and public health and the Massachusetts General Hospital evaluated 1,465 MS patients with an average age of 42. The study broke the patients down into 3 groups – 785 never smoked, 428 were ex-smokers and 257 were current smokers.
In the beginning of the study, the disease in current smokers was much worse…they were most likely to have the progressive form where symptoms steadily got worse rather than the relapsing-remitting form where symptoms were intermittent.
Dr. Alberto Ascherio of the Harvard School of Public Health comments “Most adverse effects were seen for current smokers, which is good news in some way because it suggests that quitting smoking can help.”
A group of 891 patients were monitored for three years to see how many of them changed from relapsing-remitting to secondary progressive MS. At the conclusion, 20 of 154 smokers, 20 of 237 ex-smokers and 32 of 500 non-smokers saw their disease progress to the worse form.
Therefore, the progression of the disease was about the same for ex-smokers and non-smokers but much higher and faster for smokers.
Multiple sclerosis is a disorder where the eyes, brain and spinal cord lose myelin, which is a protective coating that facilitates transmission of electrical impulses.
Approximately 400,000 people in the U.S. and 2.5 million around the world suffer from MS.
*Courtesy of Chrissie Cole of Injury Board Magazine