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Late Onset MS Patients More Likely to Progress Quickly to Disability

November 14, 2016

A study published in the journal Plos One determined that late-onset MS tends to more rapidly trigger disability in patients, as compared to younger patients who developed the disease earlier in life.

Normally, the first symptoms of MS will occur between the ages of 18-40. This is the case over 80% of the time. However, we are seeing late-onset MS a little more often nowadays, in the general population. Late-onset MS can become a great challenge quickly, as the few studies that have tracked it have seen the course significantly differ from the early-onset disease.

Their focus was time from baseline to sustained disability, defined by an EDSS score of 6.0. This score has been indirectly associated with disability progression, and is defined as the need for “intermittent or unilateral constant assistance [cane, crutch, or other] … to walk about 100 meters with or without resting.”

In total, the study included 99 late-onset patients with a median age of 45.9, and 804 early onset patients, whose median age was 26.6.

EDSS analysis during follow-up found that 19.2% of the late onset group and 15.7% of early onset patients reached EDSS 6.0.  Late-onset MS patients reached this higher disability level much more quickly — a median of 6.5 years  — than patients diagnosed with MS earlier in life, a group that took a median of 12.8 years to reach 6.0 on the EDSS scale. This difference, the researchers said, represented a 3.6-increased likelihood of late-onset patients reaching EDSS 6.0 compared to early onset patients.

“LOMS [late-onset] patients attained EDSS 6.0 in a significantly shorter period that was influenced by male gender and spinal cord presentation at MS onset,” the researchers concluded, adding, “Since the prevalence of LOMS will continue to increase, there is a need to better understand the natural history of these patients and their response to earlier institution of treatment.”