Around the world, an estimated 1.8 million people live with multiple sclerosis. This autoimmune condition is chronic and can affect your life expectancy. The right treatment options, however, may impact the outcome you can expect. Learn about multiple sclerosis life expectancy and how the latest treatments help.
Understanding Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks the sheaths that surround and protect the nerves in the spinal cord and brain, called the myelin. A damaged myelin interferes with the signals your brain sends to other parts of your body.
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle spasms
- Changes in gait
- Loss of coordination or balance
- Numbness or tingling in arms or legs
The causes of multiple sclerosis vary and are not always clear. They include being exposed to certain viruses or bacteria. People who had particular infections, like Epstein-Barr exposure, are more likely to develop MS. Other causes may be your environment, genetic mutations, and even how your immune system functions.
Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis
Getting an accurate diagnosis is one of the most crucial steps if you have multiple sclerosis. A definite test has not been developed for MS, but the symptoms you experience will lead your doctor to perform a physical exam, take blood, and get imaging tests like MRIs.
MRIs can catch any lesions in your spinal cord or brain. These lesions develop as the disease damages the myelin. Your doctor may also perform a spinal tap.
If these tests don’t offer a definite diagnosis, you may have to undergo an evoked potentials test. This test checks for nerve damage by measuring electrical activity in the spinal cord and brain.
Multiple Sclerosis Life Expectancy: Factors to Consider
Newly diagnosed patients with MS who don’t have severe disabilities have a life expectancy of 30 years or more, but lots of factors play a role in determining this number. Your unique circumstances impact life expectancy.
The Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) is an important factor for healthcare providers attempting to provide an estimated life expectancy. The EDSS measures the level of disability in patients with MS. Everything from loss of independent ambulation to cognitive function is measured to provide the EDSS score.
People with MS who experience mental health concerns like depression and anxiety may have a lower life expectancy. This is because mental health significantly impacts physical health and can even worsen the symptoms of MS.
Compliance With Therapeutic Regimen
Following treatments as required impacts how the disease progresses, which then impacts your life expectancy. The type of treatment you receive is a factor.
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Life Expectancy
For many people with MS, making some lifestyle changes helps impact their life expectancy. Diet is one of the changes.
Following a healthy diet helps you manage symptoms while also improving your overall health. For MS patients, decreasing the intake of saturated fats and instead consuming omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids helps prevent myelin loss in the central nervous system.
Adding stress management techniques to your life is another change you can make. Stress makes MS symptoms worse. Trying breathing exercises, meditation, or turning to a therapist. These strategies can all improve your stress levels and impact your overall health.
You also want to add physical exercise to your routine. Physical exercise may help slow down disease progression. Aerobic exercise may be able to decrease inflammation. It can also aid in decreasing depression and other mental health concerns that are a result of MS.
Staying at a healthy weight is also vital for increasing life expectancy. People with MS have a higher risk of malnutrition, and they are more prone to being both underweight and overweight. Adding exercise to your day and improving your food choices will help you correct any nutritional issues you have, leading to better overall health.
Getting better sleep is another important change you can make, as well as quitting any form of nicotine you may use. Smoking increases inflammation, which can make MS symptoms worse.
How Regenerative Medicine Can Help
For people with MS, one promising treatment option is regenerative treatments like stem cell therapy. More people are turning to stem cell therapy because it may be able to decrease inflammation and improve symptoms with minimally invasive measures.
Stem cell therapy uses stem cells, which are the cells that differentiate into the many types of cells in the body. For multiple sclerosis, mesenchymal stem cells are particularly useful because of their ability to repair myelin. They may also have a positive impact on the immune system.
For this type of treatment, your healthcare provider removes stem cells from your bone marrow or fat, preparing them for an injection to reintroduce them into the body. Stem cell therapy is a great option for those searching for minimally invasive treatments that don’t require a long recovery process.
Stem cell therapy gets right to the cause of MS symptoms: the damage of myelin. Unlike other treatment options, studies have shown that regenerative medicine has the potential to help with symptom management, slowing down progression, and provide a better quality of life.
It is also a treatment option that may be less likely to cause side effects because the stem cells usually come from your body.
Living With Multiple Sclerosis
Getting a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can be stressful, but it’s crucial to know that many people with the condition live full and happy lives. Advances in medicine have made it easier than ever to extend your life expectancy with conditions like multiple sclerosis, especially if you receive an early diagnosis.
Stem cell therapy and other forms of regenerative medicine work to offer you the help you need while targeting the cause of the disease. By combining stem cell therapy with lifestyle changes like exercising and eating better, you may be giving your body the ability to slow down the disease’s progression while improving your overall health.