I have been diagnosed with relapse remitting multiple sclerosis, RRMS, since 1994 and in all that time I firmly believed that MS was NOT life threatening. However, I am now informed that in very rare circumstances it can be.
Now this is never a pleasant subject to consider and for most of us, I hope it is wholly irrelevant. Less than 1% of multiple sclerosis sufferers will die as a direct result of the condition and those will be among the most severe of primary progressive MS cases. However, perish the thought, if MS is going to prove fatal it will more likely be from a complication of one or more of the MS symptoms.
Can I die from MS?
In one case a patient died when the part of their brain that regulates breathing ceased to function. In other, rare cases the myelin damage affects the 10th cranial nerve or vagus nerve which controls swallowing and also has a link to cardiac function. This latter item goes against all I previously understood, as I was of the opinion that the heart was the only fully autonomous organ in the body.
Death from complications of multiple sclerosis will affect less than 10% of sufferers which is a high percentage when you consider it means you or I have a 1 in 10 chance of dying because of MS. But again this is more likely to involve only the more severe cases.
Life threatening complications may include:
- Dehydration or Malnutrition as a result of difficulty swallowing or the inability to care for oneself.
- Kidney failure. Urinary tract infections, urine retention and sphincter dysfunction are common in MS and of which could lead to kidney failure
- Aspiration. Throat muscles not working can cause choking or inhalation of food or drink, which may cause pneumonia
- Depression unaided or left without assistance can, and sadly often does, lead to suicide
But let’s not dwell on what may never happen, most of us can expect to live at least 35 years after the diagnosis of MS. Let’s see now, I was diagnosed at the age of 34. That means I can expect to see my 69th birthday! I’m not sure if that has cheered me up or not. i am at the time of this update, 57, so still hanging on in there. Mind you, most of the worrying symptoms I have experienced or am experiencing. Is the clock ticking?
In Summary: Is MS fatal?
MS is NOT, in itself, a fatal condition OR if it is; it is a slow lingering death! Properly managed, Multiple Sclerosis patients or MSers can expect to live a long and fruitful life.
I, at the time of writing, am fast approaching the age of 60, my mother who also has multiple sclerosis is in her early eighties. MSers are a hardy bunch. We have to be, we have been dealt a lousy hand but we shall prevail.