Patients with Limited Leg Function More Likely to Progress to Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

Fatigue and limitations in leg function may increase progress from relapsing-remitting MS to secondary progressive MS in older adults.

A preliminary study brought investigators closer to understanding which older patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may be at a higher risk of worsening of the disease.

Included in the study were 155 individuals 50 years or older with relapsing-remitting MS for at least 15 years. The participants were evaluated for symptoms and level of disability at the start of the study, and again 5 years later.

The results of the study showed that overall, 30% of participants progressed to secondary progressive MS by the 5-year mark.

“Study participants were more likely to progress from relapsing-remitting MS to secondary progressive MS within 5 years,” said author Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, MD. “Better understanding who is at high risk of getting worse may eventually allow us to tailor more specific treatments to these people”

Currently, available treatments have been shown to slow or even halt the progression of relapsing-remitting MS. However, none of the medications have shown the slowing of secondary progressive MS progression.

The investigators found that individuals who progressed to secondary progressive MS were 4 times as likely to report having fatigue, with 92% compared with 68% of individuals whose disease did not progress.

After adjusting for factors such as age, how long participants had the disease, and the severity of their disability, the results were found to be the same.

Fifty-three percent of individuals whose disease progressed reported limitations in leg function such as weakness and spasms, at the start of the study compared with 22% whose disease did not progress.

The authors noted that those who progressed were older at the start of the study than those who did not progress, with an average age of 55 years compared with 52 years, respectively.

“While most research needs to be done, this study brings us closer to understanding which older adults with MS may be at higher risk of getting worse,” said Weinstock-Guttman. “With the aging population, this information will be vital as people with MS, their families, and policy makers make decisions about their care.”

The preliminary findings will be presented at the 69th American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Boston, Mass, April 22 to 28, 2017.