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July 4, 2012 | News | Living with MS

How long will I live with multiple sclerosis?

It’s often said that multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, progressive illness but is not a fatal one, and recent statistics generally bear this out. An analysis of people registered with MS clinics in British Columbia reports that the lifespan of people with MS is only slightly shorter than for people without MS (Kingwell and colleagues. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2012;83:61-66).

The analysis looked at people in the B.C. database for the period 1980 to 2004. The median survival for people with MS was 78.6 years for women, and 74.3 years for men. This is about six years shorter than the lifespan for the general population.

The average time spent living with relapsing-remitting MS was about 50 years. Long-term survival was similar in people with relapsing-remitting MS and primary-progressive MS; the duration of PPMS was shorter, but was diagnosed later in people than RRMS.

The reasons for a slightly shorter lifespan were not necessarily caused by multiple sclerosis, but MS may have contributed indirectly, for example because of problems associated with poor mobility.

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