MS Patient Lifespan, Comorbidities Studied in New Research

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by Patricia Silva PhD |

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Researchers at the University of Manitoba in Canada recently conducted a study that explored the differences in lifespan and comorbidities in patients with multiple sclerosis compared to healthy individuals. The study was recently published in the journal Neurology and is entitled “Effect of comorbidity on mortality in multiple sclerosis.

MS is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that results from the attack to the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optical nerves) by the body’s own immune system, causing inflammation and damage to the myelin layer that covers and protects neurons. Myelin loss leads to impairment in signal transmission along nerve fibers, affecting motor function and causing irreversible neurological disability and paralysis.

In the study, researchers analyzed 5,797 MS patients and a matched cohort of 28,807 healthy individuals of the same sex, same age and from the same region, to compare mortality rates and causes of death. The association between comorbidity status and mortality was also assessed.

The team found that MS patients lived a median of 76 years while healthy individuals lived a median of 83 years. In total, 44% of the patients died from the disease and associated complications, followed by circulatory system disorders, cancer and respiratory disease.

Researchers analyzed whether participants had other medical conditions, like diabetes, chronic lung disease, ischemic heart disease, anxiety and depression, and found that overall, the presence of other cormobidities had no impact on the lifespan of MS patients any more than it did in healthy individuals without the disease. However MS patients with other conditions, such as diabetes, had a shorter life span than those without. “Treating other conditions better may be a way of improving survival,” noted the study’s lead author Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie in a news release.

The team concluded that MS patients have double the risk of premature death when compared to individuals without the disease, with patients younger than 59 years exhibiting a three times higher risk. Within the MS population, comorbidities were found to be associated to an increased mortality risk. “Despite studies that show MS survival may be improving over time, the more than 2.5 million people affected worldwide by this disabling disease still face a risk of dying earlier, specifically those who are diagnosed younger,” concluded Dr. Marrie.

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