How MS Disability Is Measured
MS Progression: Disease Steps (DS)
This is a simple way to measure MS disability, mainly based on your ability to walk. Doctors use it as a way to know when to begin therapy and to tell how you are responding to therapy. Scores range from 0, which is normal, to 6, which means you are unable to walk at all.
To establish the rating, you walk 25 feet. In addition, the doctor takes a medical history and performs both physical and neurological exams. Altogether, the time needed to create the rating is no more than about 30 minutes.
MS Progression: Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite (MSFC)
The MSFC is a newer measurement system. It is sensitive to changes in addition to mobility. Although office staff can administer it, the MSFC takes more time to do, so it is currently used less in clinical practice and more for clinical trials. Computer-based tests are being developed, however, which may make it easier to use in the future.
Here's what the MSFC measures:
- Walking speed, using a timed 25-foot walk
- Arm and hand dexterity, using a nine-hole peg test
- Cognitive function, such as how well you can do math calculations, using the Paced Auditory Serial Additions Test (PASAT)
Other Measures of MS Disability
A wide range of other measures is used to assess multiple sclerosis disability. In many cases, these are simple questionnaires. For example, the Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life questionnaire asks you questions about your:
- Physical, cognitive, social, and sexual function
- Limitations due to physical or emotional problems
- Perceptions about your health
- Overall quality of life
- Emotional health
Other scales measure specific aspects of disability such as:
- Bladder or bowel control
- Visual impairment
- Mental health
Additional tests may help with measuring MS progression in the future. Work closely with your neurologist to determine which tests are recommended.