Researchers at Seoul National University Hospital have found young patients who have multiple sclerosis (MS) show more severe symptoms than their aged counterparts.
|Professor Kim Sung-min|
MS is most common in remote areas from the equator such as northern Europe, where there is less sun exposure. Therefore, the prevalence of MS was low in Asia, including Korea. However, recent studies have shown that the disease has not only increased its prevalence in Korea but also tend to show more severe symptoms.
The team, led by Professor Kim Sung-min and composed of researchers from 17 university hospitals, analyzed brain MRI and cerebrospinal fluid test (CSF) of 266 patients with MS to see how the disease affects patients. The results showed that patients born more recently tended to have more severe encephalitis from the beginning of the disease.
The number of inflammatory brain lesions also increased by 27 percent every decade.
The researchers also found the younger the patient, the more severe the systemic immune response on the CSF test. Opligoclonal bands (OCB) and immunoglobulin (IgG) levels for patients born in the 1950s were 20 percent and 13 percent, while OCB and IgG levels of patients born in 1990s were 54 and 75 percent, respectively.
"International studies suggest that changes in the environment, such as vitamin D deficiency, obesity, night shifts and urbanization, may increase the risk of developing MS," the team said. "Vitamin D is naturally produced in the body when the skin soaks in sunlight. However, unlike the previous generation, young Koreans often lack vitamin D due to staying indoors for a long period."
Also, environmental risk factors such as fast-food intake, childhood obesity, night shifts, and increase in schoolwork can affect the disease, it added.
"As the aspects of the disease have been westernized, there is a need to treat the disease at an early stage more aggressively," the team said.
Professor Kim also said, "Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that requires long-term treatment and high drug compliance. Recently, due to the development of new treatments, oral medications can increase such compliance."
As younger patients show more severe and frequent recurrences from the start of the disease, active use of such high potent drugs should be considered from the start, Kim added.
Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorder published the study in its latest edition.
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