Fatigue and Reduced Leg Function Can Signal Transition to Progressive MS, Study Reports

Fatigue and Reduced Leg Function Can Signal Transition to Progressive MS, Study Reports

Fatigue and limited leg function are more common among older people with progressive multiple sclerosis than in those with relapsing forms of the disease, according to a study.

In fact, they are a sign that the disease of a person with relapsing MS is becoming worse by reaching the progressive MS stage.

The researchers hope these insights can translate into more personalized MS treatments.

Eighty to 85 percent of people with MS are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, which is marked by symptom flare-ups followed by periods of remission. Most people eventually transition to secondary progressive MS. It is not characterized by wide swings in symptoms but rather a slow, steady worsening of the disease.

Older patients with fatigue and leg problems “were more likely to progress from relapsing-remitting MS to secondary progressive MS within five years,” Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, the author of the study, said in a news release. She is a neurology professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

“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,” she added.

Researchers presented the findings at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Boston, April 22-28. The presentation was titled “Self-Reported Fatigue and Lower Limb Problems Predictive of Conversion to Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in an Aging Sample of Patients.

The study enrolled 155 patients around 50 years old who had had relapsing-remitting MS at least 15 years. Researchers assessed patients’ symptoms and disability at the start of the study and five years later.

Thirty percent of the patients developed secondary progressive MS during the five years. This group was four times more likely to experience fatigue than those whose disease did not progress, regardless of age and the severity and duration of the disease.

In addition, patients who developed progressive MS during the five years were three times more likely to have impaired leg function than those whose disease failed to progress. Impaired function included symptoms such as leg weakness or spasms.

Importantly, researchers discovered that MS progression was more prevalent in patients who were older at the start of the study — 55 or more — and whose disability was worse when the research began.

“Better understanding who is at high risk of getting worse may eventually allow us to tailor more specific treatments to these people,” Weinstock-Guttman said. “With the aging population, this information will be vital as people with MS, their families and policy-makers make decisions about their care.”

Joana brings more than 8 years of academic research and experience as well as Scientific writing and editing to her role as a Science and Research writer. She also served as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology in Coimbra, Portugal, where she also received her PhD in Health Science and Technologies, with a specialty in Molecular and Cellular Biology.
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Joana brings more than 8 years of academic research and experience as well as Scientific writing and editing to her role as a Science and Research writer. She also served as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology in Coimbra, Portugal, where she also received her PhD in Health Science and Technologies, with a specialty in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

10 comments

    • Selkie says:

      Hi, I seem to be the other way around. First arthritis,(age 36) then m.e.(42) now one doctor thinks it’s progressed to m.s. I was 58 at the time. 60 now. Best wishes

  1. Richard Leakey says:

    I was diagnosed with a mild form of MS in 2008 called Benign MS. I’m presently struggling to walk at all! The decease leaves me feeling very weak in the legs after but a few paces and I get fatigued very quickly. When legs get weak I’m more likely to fall and I quickly lose balance or trip over my feet. Can this still be called Benign because it doesn’t feel like it! Can anything be done to alleviate some of the symptoms? What about diet? Would it be best if I gave up my glass or two of wine in the evening? I’m not overweight at 12 stone but would I be better of at 11 stone? I am only on 1/2 a Baclofen twice or three times a day to ease spasms. I take amlodopine daily to reduce blood pressure and furozamide diuretic to help prevent ankle swelling. I’m going downhill fast it seems in the hot weather and I .don’t know what to do. Can you suggest anything.

  2. Lisa Van Hooser says:

    I’m only 45 and have gad MS for 15 years. I was initially diagnosed with RRMS, but last year doctors said it had transitioned to SPMS. I hope Ocrevus works becauses nothing else has helped.

    • Tim Bossie says:

      We are very sorry to hear that Lisa. Ocrevus has been helping a great many people since its approval and release. Hoping that you are also able to benefit from it.

  3. Cheryl says:

    I was diagnosed at 43 with MS after having walking issues that started 2 years earlier. I think I already has progressive MS but doctors still called it relapsing. No changes in MRI since diagnosis but walking steadily worse in 11 years. I’m on lemtrada now,but haven’t seen any improvement. Next step will be Ocrevus. Fingers crossed.

  4. Sherry says:

    I am 54 and it has been just under a year since being diagnosed with RRMS. Before diagnosing MS, they diagnosed Transverse Myelitis as I began to go numb from the feet up. In four weeks time, I had become numb up to my waist. My mother, younger sister, an Aunt as well as a cousin have MS as well. About two months ago, I noticed I was having some difficulty forming certain words and though everyone says I sound okay, I feel like it is a struggle to make certain words sound right. I am reading as much as I can about MS, but it just seems bleak. The depression is the worst, the anxiety. I am on Copaxone, only three shots a week, but on a bunch of pills too. Does it ever get better???

  5. Albert Vinciguerra says:

    I have had MS since 1988 and find that the fatigue, the basic lack of strength and balance in my legs is slowly getting worse. At the point now that I have purchased a mobility scooter but just can’t bring myself to using it, it seems like taking the ‘final step’ – in more ways than one! I have had both courses of Lemtrada and while it seems to have put a halt to any further attacks it simply can’t do anything for any pre-existing MS symptoms.
    All the Best to everyone for 2019.

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