Multiple Sclerosis - Prognosis

The prognosis for MS differs markedly from person to person. Most people with the disease can continue walking and functioning at home and work for many years after their diagnosis. Some conditions that favor a promising diagnosis include being female, having the relapsing-remitting form of the disease, having the first symptoms at an early age, having long periods of remission between relapses, and having vision and touch symptoms rather than muscular problems.

Less than 5 percent of people with MS have a severe progressive form of the disease that leads to death within five years. At the other extreme, 10 percent to 20 percent have a benign (relatively harmless) form with very slow or no progression of symptoms. On average, MS shortens the lives of women with the disease by about six years and men by about eleven years. Suicide is a significant cause of death in people with MS, especially among younger patients.

Most people experience the severest disabilities of MS within five years of diagnosis. After that point, disabilities do not continue to worsen significantly. If no disabilities appear within the first five years, they are unlikely to occur at all.

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