Why does multiple sclerosis seem to develop soon after a car accident?

Does the car crash directly cause MS or does it trigger something that’s already there and just make it more noticeable?

MS and Car Crash: What’s the Link?

“This is very frequently asked by patients and their family members,” says Mitzi J. Williams, MD, a board certified neurologist and MS specialist, and clinical advisor for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

“There are several risk factors for MS including low vitamin D, genetic factors, smoking and possibly some environmental factors,” explains Dr. Williams.

“I have had patients who reported that their symptoms began after some type of ‘trauma,’ whether it be a psychologically stressful event or a physical trauma such as a car accident.

“However, there has not been a proven link between trauma and onset of MS or exacerbations of MS.

“There have been several studies examining this and no connection was found.

“It was interesting that MS patients were involved in more accidents because of symptoms such as incoordination, weakness and visual difficulties.”

Why Vehicular Accidents Seem to Correlate to the Development of Multiple Sclerosis

First off, vehicular crashes are exceedingly common. Out of the next 100 people who will be diagnosed with MS, how many will have been in a car accident in the previous 30 days?

Being perplexed where the disease “came from,” frustrated patients are apt to make a connection to the recent physical trauma from a motor vehicle crash.

And secondly, as Dr. Williams points out, multiple sclerosis may already be present, but undiagnosed, and its symptoms are the cause of the car accident.

Dr. Williams also points out that “after an accident, they may be more aware of symptoms due to concern of injury, and so they may be more likely to be evaluated.

“Also, if there is a possible head injury, they may be more likely to have brain imaging and further evaluation which may lead to diagnosis.”

Mitzi Williams, MD

Mitzi Joi Williams, MD, is a board certified neurologist and multiple sclerosis specialist. She is also a speaker, researcher, educator and health equity advocate.