Multiple Sclerosis Home > Multiple Sclerosis Prognosis

Multiple sclerosis can progress quickly or slowly, and symptoms can be mild or severe. What's more, doctors can diagnose the disease quickly, or it may take years to pinpoint an MS diagnosis. Factors that affect a person's prognosis with multiple sclerosis include the type of MS and how well he or she recovers from each attack.

Multiple Sclerosis Prognosis: An Overview

One of the frustrations for newly diagnosed patients is the uncertainty of living with a potentially debilitating disease. In the first few years of multiple sclerosis (MS), there is no way to confidently identify individuals who may have a benign course of the disease and those who will have a more active course. 
Therefore, it is difficult to predict the average life expectancy for someone diagnosed with MS -- the prognosis depends on several different factors.

Prognosis for MS Regarding Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for someone with MS is 35 years after the symptoms begin. This represents a life expectancy of 95 percent of someone who does not have multiple sclerosis.
Most people with the disease can function effectively; however, a rare form of acute MS can be fatal within weeks.

Multiple Sclerosis Prognosis Regarding Disease Progression

There are a few clues that might indicate the speed at which multiple sclerosis will progress.
The disease might progress more slowly if:
  • Fewer attacks occur in the first several years after being diagnosed
  • Longer intervals occur between episodes
  • Complete recovery occurs from episodes
  • Episodes are sensory in nature and cause symptoms like numbness and tingling.
MS might progress more quickly if the following occur:
  • More attacks happen during the first several years
  • Attacks occur more frequently
  • Incomplete recovery from episodes
  • Motor symptoms like tremors, coordination problems, and difficulty walking are present
  • More lesions are seen on magnetic resonance (MR) images early on.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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