The health of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) deteriorates less rapidly than previously thought, a new study indicates.
MS affects the brain and spinal cord. The condition is characterised by a slowly progressing disablement and there is currently no cure. Around 6,000 people in Ireland have MS.
German researchers analysed data on more than 5,000 people with the condition. They found that 60% of MS patients aged 50 could still walk a distance of 100 metres unaided, as could 40% of patients aged 60.
These figures are better than previously thought and have been confirmed by other researchers.
The study found that on average, it takes 20-29 years from the time of diagnosis for 50% of MS patients to be unable to walk more than 100 metres. In earlier studies, this stage of disability was generally expected to be reached after just 15 years.
The German researchers noted that among the people it studied, MS was diagnosed an average of 3.5 years after its clinical onset. For this reason, they emphasise that it is essential for GPs to refer any patients with unexplained neurological deficits to a neurologist.
Details of these findings are published in the German journal, Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.