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Excess Comorbidity Flagged in MS Patients

March 11, 2016

Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) have more comorbidities than would be expected for their age, even at the time of diagnosis, researchers say. A comorbidity is the presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient at once.

The team found that 11 of the 12 comorbidities they studied were significantly more common in 23,382 MS patients (71.9% female) than in 116,638 controls matched for age, gender and area of residence.

Moreover, these comorbidities were generally diagnosed well before the date of the MS diagnosis, with average delays between comorbidity and MS diagnosis dates ranging from 4.56 years for fibromyalgia to 7.12 years for chronic lung disease.

The excess comorbidity was particularly marked in men, with, for example, the rate ratio of hypertension in patients versus controls being 1.16 in women but 1.48 in men. Men also had notably higher rate ratios than women for diabetes, epilepsy and all psychiatric disorders, whereas women had a higher rate ratio for chronic lung disease.

William Grant (Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center, San Francisco, California, USA) and Trond Riise (University of Bergen, Norway) raise the question of whether shared risk factors underlie the increased comorbidity observed in the MS patients.

"If so, recognizing them could lead to recommendations that would reduce the risk of both MS and the comorbid diseases", they say.