Myths about MS symptoms and progression

Myth: Everyone with MS ends up in a wheelchair.
Fact: Most people with MS (about two-thirds) do not end up in a wheelchair. They are able to continue walking – often with a cane, crutches, or a walker. People who are capable of walking may choose to use a wheelchair occasionally if they are tired or are having balance problems.

Myth: MS will shorten your lifespan.
Fact: For most people, MS does not mean a shorter lifespan. The condition is not considered fatal, since most people with MS will have a normal (or near-normal) lifespan.

Myth: Doctors can predict what will happen with your MS.
Fact: MS is an unpredictable condition. Knowing which type of MS you have may give you some idea of what course you can expect the disease to take, but there is no way to know for sure what will happen with your MS in the future.

The 4 main types of MS are:

  • Relapsing-remitting: This is the most common type of MS. People with this form of MS experience flare-ups followed by recovery periods where the symptoms decrease or go away entirely.
  • Primary-progressive: This type, which affects only about 10% of people with MS, causes a gradual and steady worsening of symptoms from the time of diagnosis, with no clear flare-ups.
  • Secondary-progressive: This type of MS starts out as relapsing-remitting, and then becomes progressive (symptoms worsen gradually but steadily with no recovery periods). Current data suggest that 50% people with relapsing-remitting MS eventually develop secondary progressive MS. However, it is not yet known whether the class of medications called disease-modifying drugs will decrease this risk.
  • Progressive-relapsing: This type, which affects about 5% of people with MS, causes a gradual and steady worsening of symptoms plus flare-ups.

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