In an emotional Instagram post on Oct. 20, actor Selma Blair revealed that she has multiple sclerosis (MS), a sometimes severe and debilitating autoimmune condition. “I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps. But we are doing it. And I laugh and I don’t know what I will do precisely but I will do my best,” she wrote. Now, Blair has followed up her original Instagram with a second post, detailing how she had taken a 23andMe test that signaled her possible future MS diagnosis a few years ago, People reports.
"Only a few people will probably care about this," the actor wrote, "but a couple of years ago, I ran my genetic mutations through @23andMe. This may help somebody help themselves. I have #MTHFR genetic mutation on both sides. As well as a couple of others. #MTHFR [gene mutations]shows a higher susceptibility to MS.”
MS is a potentially disabling disease of the central nervous system, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The disease interrupts communication between the nerves of the brain and body, and within the brain itself. Most people diagnosed with MS are between the ages of 20 and 50, and two to three times more women than men are diagnosed with the illness, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society further states. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include dizziness, numbness or tingling in the limbs, face, or body, difficulties walking, and severe fatigue. Symptoms arise from damage to the nerve fibers in the central nervous system.
"The MTHFR gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase," the National Institutes of Health writes. Studies have shown that mutations in this gene are associated with an increased risk of MS, which is also twice as common in women as in men. In her Instagram about the gene mutation, Blair writes, "Toxins build up more. B vitamins need to be methylated. Folate too. Or more toxicity can build up blocking pathways which increase autoimmune disease." Blair also mentions that "a genetic counselor may be the way to go" to help someone decode their test results.
23andMe notes that, in addition to testing for ancestry and heritage traits, the service also offers a report detailing out your genetic health profile to offer insights on your health and wellness. According to their website, genetic health risk reports include testing for BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations, which affect your risk of breast and ovarian cancers, celiac disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and others, including the MTHFR gene mutations.
While Blair’s public announcement of her health condition sheds light on a major health condition, it also points to genetic testing as an important way to know your potential health risks before illness happens. While not every health variable can be controlled, nor every illness prevented, there is power in knowledge. Knowing what your health risks are can mean more successful management of any health conditions that arise in the long-term.