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How does smoking affect people with multiple sclerosis (MS)?

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who smoke appear to experience a more rapid progression of their disease, according to a report in an issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the Journals of the American Medical Association. Cigarette smokers are at higher risk of developing MS, according to background information in the article. However, the effect of smoking on the progression of MS remains uncertain.

Brian C. Healy, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and colleagues studied 1,465 people with MS who visited a referral center. A group of 891 people was assessed over time to evaluate the rate of conversion from relapsing­remitting MS to secondary­progressive MS (steady decline that develops after a period of relapsing­remitting symptoms). During an average of 3.34 years, 72 people (20 of 154 smokers, 20 of 237 ex­smokers and 32 of 500 never­smokers) experienced this progression.

“The conversion from relapsing­remitting MS to secondary­progressive MS occurred faster in current smokers compared with never­smokers but was similar in ex­smokers and never­smokers,” the study authors write.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.