Majority of patients do not develop worsening disability over 10 years
February 24, 2004
The Medical Posting
A study of how multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms change over time shows the disease may not be as progressive as previously thought.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., found less than half the patients studied developed worsening disability within 10 years, providing hope for MS patients that the physical decline associated with the condition is not uniform.
In MS, the body's own immune system repeatedly attacks the protective myelin sheath covering nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This results in a pattern of attack and remission of symptoms such as weakness, unsteady gait and vision problems.
Dr. Sean Pittock, the lead author of the study, says the results provide a benchmark against which the outcomes of treatments can be compared, and also give people with MS a better idea of their likely future.
He and his colleagues looked at changes in disability in a group of MS patients over a 10-year period.
Of the 66 patients with low disability scores at the beginning of the study, 83 per cent continued to walk without a cane 10 years later.
Of the 33 slightly more disabled patients, about half needed a cane 10 years later.
And of the 39 patients who already had difficulty walking, about half needed a wheelchair or something more at the end of the study.
Overall, 30 per cent of the MS patients progressed to needing a cane or wheelchair over 10 years. The researchers say the fact that most MS patients did not progress over 10 years was very encouraging.
MS is more common in countries like Canada that are farther away from
the equator. The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada estimates 50,000
Canadians have the disease, which tends to strike between the ages of 20
Copyright © 2004, The Medical Posting