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Multiple sclerosis not as progressive or disabling as once thought

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- In the most comprehensive study of how multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms change over time, Mayo Clinic researchers have found that less than half of patients studied developed worsening disability within 10 years. Their report appears in the current edition of the journal Neurology [Pittock SJ et al. (2004). Neurology 62:51-59].

Knowing how the symptoms of MS change over time provides good news for patients newly diagnosed with MS, who may feel the disease leads to inevitable and uniform decline in physical functioning. It also offers vital information for public health planners charged with meeting future needs of MS patients.

In their study, the Mayo Clinic researchers provide encouraging evidence that for many patients the disability from MS remains mild -- so much so that of 99 patients who were walking unassisted when examined in 1991, 71 retained that ability in 2001. And only about 20 percent of patients who did not require a wheelchair in 1991 needed one 10 years later.

"The fact that most MS patients don't get progressively worse over 10 years is the really great news," says Moses Rodriguez, M.D., the neurologist who led the Mayo Clinic research team.

Survival was slightly reduced compared with the general U.S. population, however, and 30 percent of patients progressed to a more disabling MS state -- such as needing a cane or a wheelchair -- over the 10-year follow-up period.

The finding that most MS is not as progressively disabling as once thought is counter to the common perception of MS as a disease marked by a steady decline in motor function. These new results are extremely encouraging to the Mayo Clinic researchers, who treat patients in addition to conducting research.

Adds Sean Pittock, M.D., another member of the Mayo Clinic research team: "Natural history studies like this one can provide a long-term benchmark against which outcomes of treatment and placebo groups ca
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Contact: Bob Nellis
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
22-Jan-2004


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