Fred Lublin, MD, explains that healthy lifestyle choices and wellness are of growing importance in multiple sclerosis (MS). Smoking is a primary concern. He states that in the past, patients would be advised not to smoke for general health reasons, but now there is evidence that smoking increases the risk of developing MS and, in patients with MS, increases the risk of worsening disease. He explains that, theoretically, there are interactions with the immune system within the lungs. The lymphocytes that eventually lead to damaging effects in the brain or spinal cord during MS disease progression have to pass through the lungs.
Patricia K. Coyle, MD, concurs with Lublin that smoking increases the risk for development of MS. She adds that in patients with MS, smoking increases the likelihood that relapsing MS will transition to secondary progressive disease, a condition that has no approved treatments. Coyle describes an interesting report that suggests smoking’s impact on MS may be genetically linked. Subsequently, some individuals who are more vulnerable genetically to smoking may be more like to develop MS. According to Coyle, the bottom line is simply: smoking should be avoided.