Multiple sclerosis is contagious

Multiple Sclerosis: Common Questions and Answers

The following questions were worked out in collaboration with an MS counselor.

If you have very specific questions, you should definitely consult your doctor.




  1. Is MS Contagious?
  2. Who will get MS?
  3. Why did I develop MS?
  4. Can you die of MS?
  5. Can I lead a normal life?
  6. Can i keep working?
  7. Does this diagnosis mean I will need a wheelchair?
  8. Can i have children
  9. Can my children inherit MS?
  10. Should I stop drinking alcohol?
  11. Does smoking harm in MS?
  12. Can MS be cured?
  13. Which therapies can slow down the disease?
  14. Should I tell my children that I have MS?
  15. Who should I tell about my MS?
  16. Do I have to tell my employer?
  17. I'm so depressed, is that normal?
  18. I am terribly nervous; can this make my MS worse?
  19. Can you be vaccinated with multiple sclerosis?
  20. Can I exercise with MS?
  21. What should be considered when it comes to nutrition?
  22. sexuality


1. Is MS contagious?

No, MS is not contagious.

2. Who will get MS?

MS is most common among people of northern European descent. Other tribes also develop MS, but much less often. MS is twice as likely to occur in women and is most often diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. Children and old people rarely develop the disease.

3. Why did I develop MS?

The exact cause of MS is not yet known, but we do know that MS is a so-called autoimmune disease. Due to a malfunction, the immune system destroys the insulating protective layer (myelin) that surrounds the nerves in the central nervous system. It is believed that there are genetic susceptibility factors and that the disease is then triggered by an as yet unidentified environmental factor.

4. Can you die of MS?

No, for the vast majority of people, MS is not a fatal disease. Most people affected live just as long as healthy people. In part, this is also due to the improved symptomatic drugs and the relatively new disease-modifying therapies.

5. Can I lead a normal life?

Since MS is an extremely unpredictable disease with very different courses, it is difficult to give a general answer. Depending on the type of MS you have and the severity and frequency of the attacks, the disease will affect normal life and work to a greater or lesser extent.

The future with MS holds certain uncertainties, so it is advisable to devote your energy to the present day after day. One should make long-term plans despite illness. In particular, insurance matters, housing needs, alternative employment, financial plans, and other practical matters should be reconsidered.

And if one day you need to cut down on certain activities or do things a little differently, it is important to remember that most people with MS lead productive and fulfilling lives. There are also a variety of established treatment methods available that increase the quality of life.

6. Can I continue to work despite MS?

There is no scientific evidence that normal work stress negatively affects MS. Depending on how strenuous the work is, certain symptoms such as chronic exhaustion can become problematic. In this case, it may be appropriate to consider retraining.

7. Does this diagnosis mean that I will need a wheelchair?

Fortunately, a diagnosis of MS today does not necessarily lead to a wheelchair. In large part, this is due to improved symptomatic drugs and new, disease-modifying therapies. It is especially important that the disease is treated as early as possible in order to keep brain functioning for as long as possible. Today's long-term therapies reduce both the number and strength of relapses, slow the progression of the disability, and reduce new lesions in the brain.

Most people with MS will never be severely disabled and the vast majority will remain mobile even if they may need a walker

8. Can I have children?

Yes. The vast majority of women with MS ovulate normally and can get pregnant without using contraceptives. MS also does not affect male sperm production.

Depending on where the MS lesions are located in the brain, it can happen that the sexual functions are disturbed.

Most women with MS have fewer symptoms during their pregnancy. In general, pregnancy and childbirth have no long-term impact on MS.

Before treatment with one of the disease-modifying therapies (or other drugs), however, the desire to have children should definitely be discussed with the attending physician.

Even if a severe disability is unlikely, financial considerations and opportunities for assistance should also be considered when planning a family.

9. Can my children inherit MS?

The risk that MS will be passed on to children is relatively small. Only if several family members or the spouse also have MS can the risk be greater. Studies suggest that both a genetic predisposition and the place where you spent your childhood (the closer to the North or South Pole, the higher the risk) and an as yet unknown environmental factor play a role in the development of MS play.

10. Should I stop drinking alcohol?

Large amounts of alcohol are harmful to everyone: alcohol disturbs the balance, hampers speech, makes you dizzy and changes behavior. Even so, there is no evidence that alcohol makes MS worse.

If you are taking any medication, you should ask your doctor whether you can consume small amounts of alcohol.

11. Does smoking harm in MS?

Smoking is generally harmful to health. Several studies have shown that smoking - possibly even exposure to secondhand smoke - can increase the risk of MS. The connections have not yet been fully clarified. According to some study results, smoking also has an unfavorable influence on the course of the disease, i.e. smoking can accelerate or worsen the MS disease under certain circumstances.

12. Can MS be cured?

No not yet. Scientists are trying to understand MS, and recent studies show promise. Ways are being sought to repair or regrow myelin; Understand the mechanisms that cause the immune system to attack the body's own cells; Discover environmental factors that could trigger MS and identify genes that make people more susceptible to MS.

In the meantime, the disease-modifying therapies are helping to protect the brain as much as possible, and many different drugs are being used to reduce the symptoms of MS.

13. Which therapies can slow down the disease?

Several drugs are approved for relapsing-remitting MS in Switzerland: interferon beta-1a, interferon beta-1b and glatiramer acetate. None of these drugs can cure MS, but they can slow the normal course of the disease, especially the earlier therapy is started and, if given in high doses, several times a week.

Interferon beta controls the reaction of the immune system: Interferon beta-1a is identical to interferon beta naturally produced in the body.

There are two interferon beta-1a preparations and one interferon beta 1-b. One of the interferon beta-1a preparations is high-dose and injected under the skin three times a week. The other interferon beta-1a preparation with the thicker syringe is low-dose and is injected into the muscle once a week. The interferon beta-1b is applied every 2 days under the skin with a comparatively thin and shorter needle. There is also an injectomat, which also makes it easier to take. Interferon beta-1b can be kept at room temperature for a long time and is briefly prepared before the injection (mix the active ingredient in solution).

Glatiramer acetate is a drug made up of 4 amino acids. The randomly chained amino acids do not occur naturally in this form in the human body. This substance is supposed to mimic parts of the human myelin and act like a trap for the messenger substances that attack the myelin. It is injected under the skin every day.

See also: Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis

14. Should I tell my children that I have MS?

Children notice very quickly when something is wrong or the parents are worried. For this reason, it is usually better to explain to them what is going on according to their age.

For a young child, it may be better to answer questions only when they arise. A formal notice and explanation about MS might scare it.

There is a simple and honest way of explaining MS to an older child. Usually children are afraid that their father or mother will have to die; But when they hear that MS is not fatal and that the affected parent is still there for them, they are quickly reassured.

Patient groups often have educational materials that can be used to explain MS to children.

The children's book on MS "Benjamin. My mom is special" can be purchased for CHF 6.-. It tells the story of little Benjamin, whose mother has MS and is currently going through an episode.

15. Who should I tell about my MS?

Everyone has to decide for themselves who they want to share this message with. People in need of help are more likely to be forced to talk about their MS. The patient group or doctor may have materials to communicate with family members, parents, children, or friends.

16. Do I have to tell my employer?

In Switzerland you are usually not forced to talk to your employer about your MS. If the symptoms of MS are severe, it can be beneficial to arrange a new job with the employer. Whether you want to hide your MS or talk about it openly is up to the individual.

17. I'm depressed, is that normal?

After being diagnosed with MS, it is normal to feel confused, sad and afraid of the future.

However, sometimes depression is caused by brain lesions caused by MS.

Whatever the cause of depression, it can be managed with medication or counseling. The doctor will provide more information on this.

18. I am terribly nervous; can this make my MS worse?

Stress and unsatisfactory living conditions are repeatedly associated with the development of MS. For example, the role of trauma is discussed, and grief and fear are also associated with the onset of MS.

Research has shown that stress can trigger an MS flare-up. However, compared to other influences, this factor is quite small. However, the negative effects of stress on the course of the disease should not be neglected.

However, it remains unclear how the different types of stress (e.g. grief or smoldering conflicts) affect the course of the illness. It remains to be investigated whether stress management or calming drugs can have a beneficial effect on the immunological response to stress and, moreover, the course of the disease.

Still: there are many ways to reduce stress (relaxation, meditation, setting more realistic goals, etc.); so the quality of life can be greatly improved.

19. Can you be vaccinated with MS?

Vaccinations can be given for MS, with a few exceptions. The risk of serious side effects on the nervous system varies with the individual vaccinations. Vaccinations against tetanus, rubella, hepatitis B and a flu shot can be done without the risk of relapse.

Vaccinations against polio with live vaccines and against TBE meningoencephalitis should not be given. All vaccinations should, if possible, be given during a stable phase of the illness and definitely outside of a flare-up. In any case, talk to your doctor before vaccinating, especially if you are taking immunomodulatory drugs to treat MS.

20. Can I exercise with MS?

Sport and exercise are not only permitted in principle for people with MS, they are also very important. Sport is part of a healthy lifestyle and, in the event of illness-related absences, performance can be improved in conjunction with physiotherapy. In addition, sport has a social role in that it encourages interpersonal contacts. In principle, any sport can be practiced with MS.

However, depending on the stage of the disease, some restrictions must be observed. As a rule, high-performance sport should not be practiced because the extreme psychological and physical stress that occurs can cause deterioration. Sports that are particularly beneficial for people with MS include swimming, cycling, horse riding, and all kinds of ball games.

In general, when doing sport you should have the joy of movement and the training effect in mind, but switch off particular pressure to perform and competitive thinking in order to avoid stress and excessive demands. In addition, sport should not be practiced in extreme heat and if there is a risk of being very wet.

21. What should be considered when eating?

Anyone who is reminded of the disease with every bite of a diet that they do not like is certainly not doing themselves well. As far as medicine is currently known, there is no diet that can prevent the progression of MS or cure the disease. However, there are indications that the diet has an influence on the general well-being, on the condition of the blood vessels and on the immune system.

A balanced diet with little animal protein and rich in vegetables and fruits is generally recommended for healthy people and people with MS. A sufficient intake of fluids and fiber helps to keep digestion going, especially when there is a lack of exercise (e.g. people in wheelchairs).

22. Sexuality

Let it be anticipated that sexuality does no harm in any way - on the contrary. Partners of people with MS often assume that their own sexual needs are unreasonable for the patient and do not show them. In this way, a psychological gap can develop between the partners, which makes the relationship - which is often already burdened by the illness itself - even more difficult. Sometimes the fears and inhibitions lead to sexual dysfunction, which is wrongly attributed to the disease.

Of course, temporary or permanent sexual dysfunction can occur as a result of the failures in the context of MS. In male patients, erectile dysfunction, loss of erection or delayed ejaculation can occur. In women, decreased sensitivity in the genital area can result in less vaginal moisturizing. It is important that the person concerned speaks openly about the problems and looks for solutions together with the partner, possibly with expert support.