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Clin Immunol. 2013 Nov;149(2):201-10. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2013.03.005. Epub 2013 Mar 22.

Sexual disparities in the incidence and course of MS.

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Partners Multiple Sclerosis Center, Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA; Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects three times more women than men and this ratio appears to be increasing. However male patients experience increased disease progression, brain atrophy, and cognitive impairment. Gonadal hormones may modulate these sex differences. For example, female puberty heralds an increased risk of MS, and during pregnancy disease activity is milder, with an increased risk of postpartum relapses. Gonadal hormones likely have complex and inflammatory and neuroprotective effects, and may interact with other disease modulators, such as vitamin D. Sex differences in the heritability of disease susceptibility genes implicate a role for epigenetic modification. Many questions remain, including the impact of sex on treatment response and epigenetic changes, and the modulatory potential of hormonal treatments. This article summarizes what is known about sexual dimorphism in MS onset and course, as well as potential interactions between sex and other factors influencing MS pathogenesis, incidence and severity.


Demyelinating diseases; Disparities; Gender; Genetics; Multiple sclerosis; Sex hormones

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