Women have a better overall prognosis for multiple sclerosis (MS) than men do. A recent review article in Frontiers of Bioscience suggests that hormone therapy, including hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal women, may be beneficial for MS.
MS is more common in women than in men, as much as 4 to 1 in Northern countries. However, women tend to follow a relapsing-remitting clinical course, while men are more likely to follow a progressive clinical course with poor prognosis.
Pregnancy, especially the late stages, is associated with a decrease in clinical symptoms and relapse rate. There is some evidence that MS symptoms increase after menopause. Oral contraceptives, mainly ethinyl estradiol plus a progesten, decreased the incidence of MS in a recent British study. These observations suggest that hormone therapy may be a valuable treatment. But more research is needed.
Currently there are 12 clinical trials recruiting MS patients for testing of hormone therapy, three of which use female hormones. Check them out at http://clinicaltrials.gov.
Linda Fugate, Ph.D.
Arnaud B. Nicot, Gender and sex hormones in multiple sclerosis pathology and therapy, Front. Biosci. 2009; 14:4477-4515.