What causes MS…Is it God’s will?

Koffman J, Goddard C, Gao W, Jackson D, Shaw P, Burman R, Higginson IJ, Silber E. Exploring meanings of illness causation among those severely affected by multiple sclerosis: a comparative qualitative study of Black Caribbean and White British people.BMC Palliat Care. 2015;14(1):13. [Epub ahead of print]

BACKGROUND: Illness attributions, particularly for those living with life limiting illnesses, are associated with emotional adjustment or psychological distress. Few studies have examined attributions among people severely affected by multiple sclerosis (PwMS), and specifically among from diverse communities. This study aimed to explore and compare the presence and construction of meanings among Black Caribbean and White British PwMS.
METHODS:Cross sectional qualitative interviews were conducted among Black Caribbean (BC) and White British (WB) PwMS with an EDSS of ≥6.0 (severe disease). Data were analysed using the framework approach.
RESULTS: 15 BC and 15 WB PwMS were interviewed. Attributions were complex with most PwMS reporting multiple explanations. Uncertainty, represents the first theme surrounding the aetiology of MS where participants constantly rehearsed the “why me?” question in relation to their illness, a number expressing considerable frustration. The second theme, ‘logical and scientific’, was voiced more often by WB. PwMS and accounts for a range of genetic/viral influences, stress, environmental and lifestyle factors. Third, the ‘supernatural’ illness attribution theme departs from a biomedical perspective and was reported often among BC PwMS. This theme included the sub-categories of tests of faith and divine punishment, a view although exclusive to BC participants but was sometimes in conflict with notions of modernity.
CONCLUSION:Our findings identify evidence of cross-cultural and intra-group diversity in relation to MS causation. A greater professional awareness of the processes used by PwMS from diverse communities to make sense of their situation will enable health care professionals to facilitate effective support for those in their care and channel relevant psychosocial resources to them. This requires heightened skills in communication and cultural competency.

Why do we get MS? is a million dollar question and the answer is we do not know, but I am sure what allows a few to get MS, can protect the many (the human population) for things such as infection. 

It looks like the African ancestors became white as they migrated into the North. May through lack of sunlight people got bone and pelvis problems so babies and probably mothers died in child birth and so losing pigment was a natural selection movement for the human population in Northern Europe. 

However, as people with MS are of child bearing age before MS typically arises there is no “natural selection” pressures to weed out the cause. 

When you get MS I guess you as“Why me”. We can be sure the answer is genetics. There are 150 genes known so far. There is nothing particularly unusual about these but MS results when some of them come together. 

For the Brits in this study they live in MS central and so they have the risk of the “environment” some of which we know about.

Then there is chance-Sod’s/Murphy’s Law 

Considering that the UK is a Church State, some will say that we are a bit of a heathen bunch and there are few Church Goers (~10% of population) compared to many other countries.  

However, the Afro-Caribbean population may have more Godliness and so in the survey it was interesting that the chance event indicated was centred around “God’s will”. 

Sorry I don’t buy this and the causes of MS will have their roots firmly in biology.

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  • This is interesting. Suddenly, after having read this blog for a couple years and currently participating in a course on climate change and denialism (that's free on EdX if anyone here is interested)–I'm thinking the study of science and mis perception is well worth pursuing. Maybe I will get that PhD someday.

  • An interesting topic. As a Christian with MS, I do not accept that it is God's will and I argue with with anyone who suggests otherwise. I don't believe that everything that happens in this world is God's will. I accept DMT's gratefully (in my case Copaxone) and I pray that one day there will be a cure. In the meantime, I prefer to use my energy to deal with this MS challenge rather than go round in circles as to "why me" That question is only really useful when it's to aid research teams in looking at gentetic and environmentals factors. Perhaps one day they will find a way to prevent it and then the reason why will serve a purpose.

  • "However, as people with MS are of child bearing age before MS typically arises there is no "natural selection" pressures to weed out the cause." Indeed – I have often thought of this. My MS started in my mid-twenties and only began to affect me to a significant degree in my late thirties, when, even as recently as medieval times, I would have been considered ancient already.

    It's predictable – and uninteresting – that some will invoke divine intervention to explain that which is not readily clarified by science as yet. There is nothing new about that.

  • To be honest, I dont think there is one cause for MS. If there was the cure would have been found already. I think many issues cause lesions in the CNS. The majority have positive LPs but yet some do not. Some respond to one DMT better that another and some dont seem to repond at all. Some respond to fampridine other dont. Some as we have found out respond to Biotin other don't. Then there are people like Professor Jelink swear by the diet. Many have been infected by the EBV but others like me have not. I have also been tested to see if I ever had the virus and that was clear. In my case my nervous system was damaged by radiation and that started the ball rolling! Nothing wrong with my immune system either as LP is clear. If the cause was the same then we would all be more alike and there would not be so many varities.
    MS is a symptom of many other conditions – just like foot drop is not a condtion in its own right. Researchers must stop looking for one cause because it wont be found.

    • Joanna – have you been remotely accessing my brain from the other side of the world??? Your thoughts on there being more than one cause of MS echo mine exactly. I believe MS is an outcome of whatever a particular individual's triggering cause is, and also agree that this is why different people respond (or don't respond) to different drugs/diets etc etc. Find out what the causes are, and then there will be more realistic possibilities of finding cures. I say "cures" plural, not singular because I suspect that successful treatments, be they drug based or not, will be dependent on identifying the triggering cause – proper patient-centric medicine.



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