Is SPMS Going to Affect My Life Expectancy?
Receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive neurological disorder, can be frightening. One of the first things patients ask is — what does this mean for me? Will my life expectancy drop with this diagnosis?
What is life expectancy?
Life expectancy is a “best guess” of how long people, in general, will live, based on their date of birth, where they live, their gender, and other considerations. It does not refer to individuals, but to the population as a whole. This can be frustrating for patients, but statistics do not deal in absolutes.
How does MS change life expectancy?
This depends on a number of factors. For example, MS patients are more susceptible to chest and bladder infections, which can be life-threatening if not treated properly.
Currently available data indicate that the average life expectancy for MS patients is five to 10 years shorter than people without MS. For reference, in the U.S., the average life expectancy is 81 years for women and 76 years for men. However, most experts think that early diagnosis and new advances in treatments mean that this gap is narrowing.
I’ve been diagnosed with SPMS — what changed?
Many MS patients are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS); they have flare-ups or relapses, when new symptoms appear, followed by periods of remission without any symptoms. However, some RRMS patients will eventually reach a point where their MS becomes secondary progressive (SPMS) — which is a slow but steady progression of symptoms without remission.
It’s unclear at the moment why RRMS sometimes transitions to SPMS. But the gradual progression of symptoms means that patients need to keep a closer eye on their health. They will not have periods of remission as before, and many patients will experience a loss of mobility, which can increase the risk of injury and further lower life expectancy.
Last updated: Oct. 21, 2019
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