J Neurosci Nurs. 2003 Apr;35(2):70-81
Halper J, Kennedy P, Miller CM, Morgante L, Namey M, Ross AP.
Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, Gimbel MS Center, Teaneck, NJ, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Cognitive impairment is a common problem in multiple sclerosis (MS); up to 65% of patients exhibit some neuropsychological dysfunction during the course of their disease.
It is a major contributing factor to unemployment, accidents, impairment of daily functioning, and loss of social activity in those affected by MS.
The areas of cognition typically impaired are memory, attention, information processing, executive functions, and visuospatial skills.
Cognitive dysfunction is independent of disease duration and level of disability; cognitive decline may begin in the earliest stages of MS before patients become even mildly disabled.
Structural brain imaging studies show a positive correlation between the extent of brain atrophy and cognitive dysfunction.
Despite its prevalence in MS, cognitive dysfunction often goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed as depression, stress, stubbornness, lack of intelligence, or psychosis.
Because nurses play such an important role in the care of patients with MS, they are in a position to identify patients with cognitive dysfunction, educate patients and their families on ways to cope with cognitive deficits, and counsel patients on available treatment options.
Practical guidelines help nurses identify and care for cognitively impaired MS patients.