People with MS and spasticity — muscle tightness and involuntary spasms — frequently experience additional symptoms that can negatively impact their quality of life and daily functioning. A recent survey found that more than 60 percent of people living with MS and spasticity have at least eight additional symptoms, including fatigue, pain, and difficulty walking. Dr. Scott Newsome, an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, discussed the survey and its implications at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers Annual Meeting in October.
MS is a condition that affects the central nervous system. It’s caused by the immune system eating away at the protective sheath (myelin) around a person’s nerves. About 80 percent of people with MS experience spasticity at some point during their life. Spasticity — which is caused by contraction in the muscle — doesn’t always cause pain, but it can be painful at times. Treatment options, including physical therapy, medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes, can reduce symptoms of MS spasticity.
Newsome and his colleagues conducted the online survey — outlined in a report titled Symptoms and Emotions Exploration Needed in Multiple Sclerosis Spasticity — between February and April of this year. A total of 961 adults with MS and spasticity completed the multiple-choice and rank-order questions. They noted the symptoms that they experienced and how they ranked them in terms of disease burden.
Survey respondents reported 17 coexisting symptoms in addition to spasticity, and more than 60 percent of those who completed the survey said they lived with at least eight symptoms on top of experiencing spasticity.
When ranking the burden of their symptoms, spasticity came in atop the list for 72 percent of survey respondents. The other most problematic symptoms included fatigue (cited by 59 percent of respondents), difficulty walking (45 percent), and pain (40 percent).
Overall, respondents said that spasticity’s negative impacts included causing pain (92 percent), hindering their ability to move (94 percent), impairing their sleeping (89 percent), and harming their emotional well-being (86 percent).
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Respondents also ranked daily activities that were most limited by spasticity. Walking topped the list at 71 percent. Others included completing household activities (52 percent), climbing stairs (51 percent), standing (48 percent), and working (46 percent).
According to Newsome, the survey highlights the substantial burden of symptoms for people living with MS and spasticity and the importance of symptom management on a day-to-day basis. “These results emphasize the importance of proactive communication regarding the constellation of symptoms associated with spasticity and addressing the individual needs and treatment goals of people with MS and spasticity,” the study authors wrote.