Is ageing a disease? It is if you have MS.
We have been making the argument for moving our treatment target in MS to focus on old age; i.e. how do we your HCPs get you to old age with enough brain to deal with the ravages of age-related cognitive impairment?
It is clear that your brain and cognitive reserves are what protects you from the ‘normal age-related neuronal drop-out’, which occurs as part of normal life. We know that MS shreds both brain (size) and cognitive (synapses) reserve and hence it should bring forward age-related cognitive impairment in MSers. The latter was a hypothesis, but the study below shows it is not necessarily a hypothesis anymore. In summary, older MSers are more likely to be cognitively impaired (77%) compared to younger MSers (43%). The challenge is to prevent this. How? Early effective treatment to stop the shredder and to make sure we tackle smouldering MS.
Do you need any more evidence? Please ask your neurologist if you have NEDA is there any evidence of smouldering MS? He/She may want to know what smouldering MS is. You can then tell them it is what is happening at the bottom of the treatment pyramid that is out of sight of our routine monitoring. This is the reason why you need to self-monitor and if you are getting worse you need to ask what can be done about it.
Branco et al. Aging with multiple sclerosis: prevalence and profile of cognitive impairment. Neurol Sci. 2019 Apr 23. doi: 10.1007/s10072-019-03875-7.
BACKGROUND: The increase in life expectancy of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) requires a better knowledge of disease features in the older patients group.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the prevalence and profile of cognitive impairment (CI) in older patients with MS and perform a comparison with younger patients.
METHODS: Patients were consecutively recruited for 6 months. Cognitive performance was assessed through the Brief Repeatable Battery and the Stroop Test. CI was defined as impairment in ≥ 2 cognitive domains.
RESULTS: We identified 111 patients older than 55 years (mean age 59.7 years). The prevalence of CI was 77.4%, which was significantly higher than in younger patients (42.8%; p < 0.01). Information processing speed was the most impaired domain (68.8%), followed by verbal learning (49.5%), executive function (47.7%), and visuospatial learning (26.6%). We found no significant differences in the prevalence of impairment in the distinct cognitive domains between older and younger patients with CI. Depression and fatigue were not associated with increased CI among patients in the older age group (p > 0.70).
CONCLUSION: There is a remarkably high frequency of CI in older patients with MS. The similar profile of CI between older and younger patients suggests that CI is mostly directly related to MS itself and not to comorbid age-related disorders.