InsideMS, Winter 2002, Vol. 20, Issue 1
We asked Dr. Stanley van den Noort to comment on aging and MS. Dr. van den Noort, professor and chair emeritus of the Department of Neurology at the University of California, Irvine, has just stepped down as chief medical officer of the National MS Society and from the InsideMS editorial board. He has been a volunteer for the Society for more than 30 years. Dr. Aaron Miller, who heads the MS Care Center at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, has taken up these responsibilities.
InsideMS is taking this occasion to thank Dr. van den Noort for his years of advice by asking, once again, for his insights:
“I have about 15 patients over 70 who have MS who see me several times a year. The oldest is 86. One of them, who is well over 80, is convinced that her MS was caused by a rose thorn that pricked her finger in Java 60 years ago.
“MS often seems to disappear when people are in their 70s—but MS remains unpredictable and attacks can occur in this age group. In addition, other diseases take their toll. One of my older patients has Parkinson’s disease, which is worse than her MS. Others have had strokes, breast cancer, diabetes, and other diseases associated with aging. But I don’t see as much MS-related worsening with age as I would have expected.
“I do see some unexpected advantages with age. Older people with MS
who are no longer obligated to support themselves and/or their families
with work are much more relaxed. The anguish caused by changes in social
roles, by loss of ability to work at a chosen profession—those are a younger
person’s problems. From what I see, I think people with MS do better with
what aging brings them than healthy people who have never faced living
with a functional deficit. They’ve had years to hone their coping skills.
They are experts at working around limitations.”
© 2002 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society