May 17, 2004 -- Most people with multiple sclerosis (MS) say they're satisfied with their quality of life, despite suffering from impaired physical function and overall general health, a new study shows.
Researchers found 77% of people with MS said they were mostly satisfied or delighted with their quality of life, even though they suffered from lower physical functioning, vitality, and overall general health compared with the general population.
Quality of life refers to a person's perceived physical and mental well-being, and is often used as a measure of the effectiveness of treatments for MS.
MS is a potentially disabling autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system and causes problems with muscle control and strength. There is no known cure for the disease, and most treatments are designed to reduce relapses of the disease and slow the progression and physical disablement of the disease. The researchers say that many studies are now looking at the effect of treatment on the quality of life in MS sufferers, which they say may be more important to patients than the effect of disability from the disease.
Good Quality of Life Possible With MS
In the study, which appears in the May issue of The Archives of Neurology, researchers studied the quality of life of 185 people with MS living in Olmstead County, Minn.
The participants answered questionnaires with sections on pain, vitality, tiredness, social functioning, emotional well-being, mental health, and ability to perform activities of daily life. Researchers then compared those quality of life scores to scores from people without MS.
The study showed that people with MS had worse scores on measures of physical functioning, vitality, and general health. But the scores were minimally different on indicators of pain and mental health.
"Though they are worse with respect to the physical and social functioning domains of QOL, they did not have clinically meaningful differences in their perception of pain, cognitive problems, or emotional problems affecting their QOL when compared to the general U.S. population," write researcher Sean J. Pittock, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues.
Researchers also found the participant's disease severity or their degree of disability, was strongly associated with their scores on physical functioning, general health, and vitality. But there was only a very weak association between disease severity and pain and emotional or mental health.
When asked how to describe how they felt about their life as a whole, 77% said they were satisfied or delighted and only 4% said they were mostly dissatisfied or described their lives as terrible.
"Although many patients with MS have significant disability, most patients in the Olmstead County community continue to report a good QOL," write the researchers.