When it comes to the prognosis for multiple sclerosis (MS), there’s both good news and bad news. Although MS isn’t fatal, there’s currently no cure — MS is a chronic condition.
But many people who have MS also have to contend with other issues that can decrease their quality of life. Even though most will never become severely disabled, many experience symptoms that cause pain, discomfort, and inconvenience.
In this article, we’ll go over what to expect when it comes to MS. We’ll talk about prognosis, outlook, and more.
Complications associated with MS, like infections, cardiovascular disease, and accidents, can cause the lifespan of someone with MS to be shorter than people who aren’t living with MS. But treating these complications can greatly reduce the risk of a shortened lifespan.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), the lifespan of people with MS has increased over time. But the associated complications cause the average lifespan with MS to be about 7 years shorter than people who don’t live with MS.
Those with MS tend to die from many of the same conditions as people who don’t have the condition, like cancer and heart disease. Apart from cases of severe MS, which are rare, the prognosis for longevity is generally good.
Prognosis is affected by the type of MS. Primary progressive MS (PPMS) is characterized by a steady decline in function without significant relapses or remissions. Every case is different, so there may be some periods of inactive decline. But the steady progression continues.
For the relapsing forms of MS, there are several guidelines that may help predict prognosis. People with MS tend to do better if they experience:
- few symptom attacks in the initial few years post-diagnosis
- a longer amount of time passing between attacks
- a complete or almost complete recovery from their attacks
- symptoms related to exclusively to sensory problems, like tingling, vision loss, or numbness
- neurological exams that are almost normal 5 years after diagnosis
MS isn’t a fatal condition in most cases, and most people with MS have a close-to-normal life expectancy. But since the disease varies so much from person to person, it can be difficult for doctors to predict whether their condition will worsen or improve.
Another way of evaluating the prognosis for MS is to examine how disabilities resulting from the condition’s symptoms may affect people.
According to the NMSS, around two-thirds of people with MS are able to walk without a wheelchair 2 decades after their diagnosis. Some people will need a cane or a walker to remain ambulatory. Others use an electric scooter or wheelchair to help them cope with fatigue or balance difficulties.
It’s hard to predict how MS will progress in every person. The severity of the disease varies widely from person to person.
- Around 45 percent of those with MS aren’t severely affected by the disease.
- Most people living with MS will undergo a certain amount of disease progression.
To help determine your personal prognosis, it helps to understand the risk factors that may indicate a greater chance of developing a severe form of the condition. Certain factors indicate a higher risk for more severe symptoms, including the following:
- You’re over 40 at the initial onset of symptoms.
- Your initial symptoms affect many parts of your body.
- Your initial symptoms affect mental functioning, urinary control, or motor control.
MS generally affects quality of life more than longevity. While certain types of MS can potentially affect lifespan, they are the exception — not the rule.
People with MS must contend with many difficult symptoms that will affect their lifestyle. But they can rest assured that with appropriate treatment of the disease, their life expectancy essentially mirrors that of people who don’t have the condition.
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