Teenagers experiencing unexplained kissing problems are more likely to have suffered a brain injury such as car accidents or sport-related head injuries, according to a new report from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.
Sarossum Lambalink and Richard Attias, a research fellow at the institute and lead author of the study, said: “We found that teenagers with kissing trouble are significantly more likely to have brain injury that is often known as ‘kissing disease’.
“They are also at risk of experiencing the head injury that we know is often associated with multiple sclerosis.”
Individuals with a history of motor vehicle crashes, head injuries from sport, or injuries caused by hanging, jumping, motor vehicle accidents, or injury caused by falling off a bed were more likely to have either the kissing or MS brain injury, the report found. Other common head injuries associated with possible MS risk include those that could be dangerous to swallow, falls caused by stress, or children who have used medication that has disturbed blood vessels or damaged the brain.
The report, which was published in the British Journal of Neurology, analysed data from a nationwide survey of 15- to 19-year-olds in England from the 2011-12 school year. A total of 281 participants (8.6%) reported experiencing kissing problems that had not previously been diagnosed, with all respondents having suffered at least one warning symptom such as unexplained bleeding, bleeding gums, bleeding in the eye, redness in the cheeks, or nausea.
The participants were then assessed by physical and neurological physicians who conducted neurological assessments and carried out formal neurological tests to measure the likely consequence of the head injury. Secondary symptoms were also assessed, including headache, vertigo, dizziness, and imbalance. There were 26 cases of missing head injuries during the assessment process, including 12 cases of motor vehicle accidents, eight head injuries resulting from sport or sport-related injuries, seven falls resulting from stress, and two cases of children who had used medication that had disrupted blood vessels or damaged the brain.
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“People have speculated for decades that unprotected oral sex with multiple partners might lead to infection with the herpes simplex virus type 2, which is the cause of many painful tongue/nose/tooth lesions in teenagers,” said Attias. “This theory is supported by the finding that the head injury risk increases with infection with the SEL2 virus.”
While there is no evidence that a particular sexual orientation, in particular same-sex attraction, promotes the risk of multiple sclerosis, Attias and Lambalink’s findings could improve general understanding of the link between genital herpes infection and reduced immune function, which may underlie the neurological development of multiple sclerosis.