Some patients have symptoms that are not directly related to their MS. Swollen lymph nodes are a perfect example of such symptoms. The multiple sclerosis-swollen lymph nodes coincidence has been shown to be meaningful in certain contexts.

First of all, it is important to establish what causes the lymph nodes to swell. Various factors have been implicated in the development of swollen lymph nodes. They include bacterial and viral infections of various kinds, some autoimmune diseases, and certain forms of cancer. These conditions can all impact healthy patients as well as patients who are suffering from MS. Hence, it is not unusual for patients to experience the MS-swollen lymph nodes coincidence. The concurrence of the two conditions may be a coincidence with no causal relationship. Alternatively, the multiple sclerosis-swollen lymph nodes coincidence may be significant enough to imply a relationship between the two conditions. As you will see below, this relationship does not have to be a direct one.


MS, Swollen Lymph Nodes, and the Epstein-Barr Virus


The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is one virus in the family of herpes viruses. In some people, it causes infectious mononucleosis, whose symptoms include swollen lymph glands, sore throat and fever. Afterwards, they may recover from these symptoms and the virus may remain dormant for an unspecified period of time. What happens next is particularly interesting. You see, EBV is not just associated with swollen lymph nodes: It is also associated with multiple sclerosis.

According to several studies, MS patients have higher than normal levels of EBV antibodies. It also happens to be the case that, when MS first strikes, it often comes on the heels of mononucleosis. Most people with MS can attest to having previously had an EBV infection. The results of one study on the relationship between EBV and MS stand out: They indicate that the active replication of EBV is rare in people experiencing MS remissions, but common in people experiencing MS flare ups. Clearly then, EBV is somehow implicated in the development of MS. However, this implication is unlikely to involve the virus’ direct action as no active virus has been found in MS lesions.

Mechanisms have been suggested to explain how EBV may be implicated in the development and progression of MS. One of them posits that, in response to an EBV infection, the immune system attacks some of the virus’ protein structures. Afterwards, the immune system is primed to be sensitive to any molecule that resembles this protein; it starts to attack a similar type of protein in the myelin sheaths of nerve cells. The result is MS as we know it.