Overcoming Activity Limitations in Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Processing speed found to hinder MS patients in everyday life.

Processing speed found to hinder MS patients in everyday life.

Cognitive difficulties suffered by patients with multiple sclerosis during treatment is one of the major factors impacting quality of life, a recent study indicates.

Specifically, processing speed was noted as the main culprit in limiting activity and participation in daily tasks for MS patients, according to a study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Kessler Foundation, was the first evaluation of cognition, activity, and participation measures in MS patients.

The researchers noted that the rate of employment drops from 90% to between 20% and 30% within 5 years after diagnosis. Meanwhile, just 35% of MS patients report they are able to maintain normal social and lifestyle activities.

The researchers seek to identify modifiable factors associated with lifestyle difficulties to aid occupational therapists in developing effective interventions. As cognitive impairment is frequently associated with less social participation and employment, researchers targeted the cognitive factors linked to activity and participation.

The study included 72 patients with MS to measure the ability to cook as an activity and for employment status. The assessment included neuropsychological testing of memory, executive function, visual perception, and processing speed.

The patients also answered questions about fatigue, affective symptoms, activity, and participation.

"The only variable significantly related to activity and participation was processing speed,” said study co-author Yael Goverover, PhD. "For occupational therapists, this means that implementing strategies that improve processing speed may help people with MS maintain their daily activities and stay in the workplace. In light of the close association between cognitive factors and cooking, providers should be aware that decline in cooking skills may be sign of cognitive decline in MS."