New research suggests MS patients who suffer from fatigue and have limited use of their legs are more likely to experience the advanced stages of the disease.
Around 80-85 per cent of people with multiple sclerosis are first diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), which includes periods of remission.
Most MS patients eventually develop the progressive form of the disease and for these people their symptoms do not come and go. Instead they gradually worsen. The study’s authors noted that there are some drugs that can help control RRMS, but there are no treatments for progressive MS.
For this study, researchers evaluated 155 people, aged 50 and older, who had been diagnosed with RRMS at least 15 years earlier. At the start of the study all of the patients’ symptoms and levels of disability were assessed and the same evaluations were repeated five years later.
The researchers found that overall, 30 per cent of participants experienced a worsening of their disease and developed progressive MS after five years. They found that these patients were four times as likely to experience fatigue. And this was true even after they had considered other possible contributing factors, such as age, time since diagnosis and the severity of their disability.
The patients who developed progressive MS were also older and were three times as likely to report weakness and spasms in their legs. They also had more severe disability at the start of the study.
Better understanding who is at high risk of getting worse may eventually allow us to tailor more specific treatments to these people,” said study author Dr. Bianca Weinstock-Guttman.
“While more research needs to be done, this study brings us closer to understanding which older adults with MS may be at higher risk of getting worse,” Weinstock-Guttman said in an American Academy of Neurology news release.
“With the aging population, this information will be vital as people with MS, their families and policy makers make decisions about their care,” she added.