Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. More than 2.3 million people worldwide live with MS, estimates the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation.

MS is considered an autoimmune disease, as the body’s immune system attacks myelin. This is a fatty substance that insulates and protects the nerve fibers of the central nervous system.

When myelin is damaged, it makes it difficult for the brain to send signals to the rest of the body and within the brain itself.

The symptoms of MS vary from person to person. Common symptoms may include:

Read on to learn about the ongoing research on MS prevention.

Scientists, researchers, and doctors haven’t yet been able to develop a method of curing or preventing MS. One of the main reasons why is that the cause of MS isn’t fully understood.

Experts believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of MS. Identifying these factors might one day help pinpoint the cause of the disease. This can open the door to developing treatments and prevention options.

Many studies have explored the possibilities of MS prevention. These include the following:

  • A number of studies have focused on whether vitamin D levels have an influence on MS activity. Higher levels of vitamin D may prevent MS.
  • A 2016 study on mice suggests fasting could provide beneficial effects for relapsing-remitting MS.
  • A 2016 report found the risk of developing MS was substantially lower in people who drank a high amount of coffee (more than 30 ounces, or around 4 cups, a day).
  • A 2017 study on mice found that resveratrol — a compound found in red wine — showed anti-inflammatory effects in the brain, which may restore the myelin coating on nerve fibers.

MS isn’t directly inherited or contagious, but there are some things that may increase your risk for it. They include:

  • Age. Although people of any age can develop MS, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society notes the average age of onset is 30 to 33 years.
  • Sex. According to the Mayo Clinic, women are approximately two times as likely to develop MS as men.
  • Family history. There’s a higher risk of MS if a parent or sibling has MS.
  • Race. People of African, Asian, or Native American descent have the lowest risk for developing MS. White people — especially of Northern European descent — have the highest.
  • Geography and sun. The likelihood of developing MS is higher in temperature climates than tropical ones. Because of this, it’s speculated that exposure to the sun or higher vitamin D levels in the body might help prevent MS.
  • Past infections. There are viruses, such as Epstein-Barr, that have been linked to MS.
  • Certain autoimmune diseases. Having type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, or inflammatory bowel disease slightly increases the risk of developing MS.

Understanding these risk factors can help researchers find potential cures and prevention opportunities.

At this point in time, there are no cures for MS. There are also no proven ways to prevent getting the disease.

There is, however, ongoing MS research to one day understand this disease and prevent it from occurring.