The diagnosis may be expected. It may come entirely out of the blue. However the news comes, when it does, multiple sclerosis life expectancy will be at the top of the list of all the concerns to follow. While some questions regarding multiple sclerosis (MS) will have fairly definitive answers, this is not one of them. For some, multiple sclerosis may have no effect whatsoever on life expectancy. In some few, the illness my take a particularly aggressive patch. There is no multiple sclerosis baseline.
Before considering life expectancy, a definition of the illness is a necessary starting point. Essentially, MS is an illness that destroys a specific tissue, myelin, in the central nervous system. While not the only symptoms, necessarily, people with MS may experience problems with muscle control, speech and vision. Notably, as emphasized by the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, “MS is neither contagious or fatal.”
Of the four types of MS, as listed by the WebMD medical site, the most common is Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, whereby first symptoms usually appear in a person’s 20s, followed by complete or partial recovery for some period, then another period of symptoms and recovery, and so on. This type of MS may last a decade or two, after which most will enter Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, with no recovery following relapse.
A relatively uncommon form of MS is Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, with symptoms beginning around age 40, and symptoms worsening after diagnosis. The rarest of the four is Progressive Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis, with periodic relapses characterized by worsening symptoms.
Multiple Sclerosis Life Expectancy Is Not Less
Whatever the type, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation makes clear: “People with MS have a life expectancy that is not really any different from the general population. The leading causes of death in the MS community are heart disease, cancer and stroke. MS tends to affect quality of life, not quantity of life.”
With that understanding, early diagnosis may be helpful in reducing the effects of MS. And managing those effects is crucial to preserving the highest quality of life possible, which means working with health professionals to best understand what physical impairments may be expected. Losing the ability to drive a car, for example, may have far less negative impact if that possible outcome is known and a patient has a plan in place for dealing with that deprivation before it happens. In may not be possible at present to master MS, but there are ways to manage it.