Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyMSTeam

How Multiple Sclerosis Impacts Cognitive Functioning and the Signs You Should Look For

Updated on June 04, 2018

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

Roughly 50% of people living with MS have some form of cognitive challenges.1

Cognitive challenges can include trouble concentrating or following through on complex tasks, along with difficulty remembering events or finding the right words to use.1

Early comprehensive intervention in partnership with your healthcare team may help maintain brain health, including slowing lesion growth.2,3

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disease. One of the lesser known symptoms of MS is cognitive decline. In fact, as MS progresses, approximately 50% of people diagnosed with a type of MS will experience some form of cognitive challenges over time with attention span, processing of information, memory, verbal fluency or decision making.1 Recent studies suggest that cognitive dysfunction can occur earlier in the disease than previously thought.2 These challenges can impact the ability to work, drive, socialize and even live independently.1

How Does MS Impact Brain Health and Cognitive Functioning?
As all adults age, they generally lose a small amount of brain tissue. In people living with MS, this loss may happen at a faster pace. In addition, the brain's ability to adapt to MS damage (such as brain lesions) can be slowly used up over time. This decline in "brain health" results in increased symptoms of MS, including decreased mobility and cognitive functioning.3

What are the Signs of Cognitive Impairment?
The National Multiple Sclerosis Association describes six different categories of cognitive impairment.

  • Memory or recall - including difficulty learning new material, forgetting appointments or someone's name or feeling disoriented and not knowing where you are.

  • Attention and concentration - including difficulty focusing or inability to stick to one task without getting distracted.

  • Information processing - being unable to respond quickly when a lot of information is being presented or trouble handling deadlines.

  • Problem-solving and dealing with complex tasks - including missing the point in conversations or trouble following through with complicated tasks.

  • Visual-spatial abilities - including getting confused about right/left and north/south or trouble with depth-perception.

  • Verbal fluency - including finding the right words or mixing words up.

    When Do Signs Appear?
    Cognitive impairment symptoms may be observed one or more years before your MS diagnosis.3 However, the decline may start to occur years before symptoms are even noticed.

    In a 2018 survey of 443 MyMSTeam members, half said that they began to experience cognitive impairment symptoms well before being officially diagnosed with MS.4

    Maintaining Your "Brain Health" - Importance of Early Intervention
    There are important lifestyle changes you can make as soon as you are diagnosed with MS. This can include changes to your diet and exercise, as well as adding puzzles or other brain games to your daily routine to help keep your mind active. While further research is needed, studies have shown that working with your healthcare team to get on a comprehensive treatment intervention plan early on and staying on treatment, along with lifestyle changes, may help slow down the decline in brain health over time. Making changes even later such as starting treatment well after diagnosis – may still help to reduce brain lesions and lead to a lower level of physical disability later in life (example: decline in mobility). For example, some studies have shown that early intervention with a disease modifying therapy (DMT) in MS is thought to give an improved long-term prognosis.2

    See Steps You Can Take Today that May Help with Brain Health and talk to your healthcare specialists to learn more about what you can do.

    References:

    1. Courtney SW. Cover Story: Cognitive Issues with Multiple Sclerosis: Research, Strategies and Support. Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. https://mymsaa.org/publications/motivator/ winter-spring15/cover-story/. Published Spring 2015. Accessed March 2018.
    2. Giovannoni G, Butzkueven H, Dhib-Jalbut S, et al. Brain Health: Time Matters in Multiple Sclerosis. MS Brain Health. https://msbrainhealth.org/perch/resources/ brain-health-time-matters-in-multiple-sclerosis-sep-17-1.pdf. Published 2015. Updated September 2017. Accessed March 2018.
    3. Costello K, Halper J, Kalb R, et al. The Use of Disease Modifying Therapies in Multiple Sclerosis: Principles and Current Evidence. MS Coalition. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/getmedia/ 5ca284d3-fc7c-4ba5-b005-ab537d495c3c/ DMT_Consensus_MS_Coalition_color. Published July 2014. Updated March 2017. Accessed March 2018.
    4. MyMSTeam Study on Cognitive Symptoms, March-April 2018. n=443

    A MyMSTeam Member said:

    This article is so completely helpful to me. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    posted 4 days ago

    hug

    Recent articles

    Mht ad dr boster qa part 2 v02.015
    Back by popular demand! Dr. Aaron Boster joins MyMSTeam cofounder and COO, Mary Ray, for another...

    How To Manage Your MS Symptoms and the Side Effects of Treatments With Dr. Boster

    Back by popular demand! Dr. Aaron Boster joins MyMSTeam cofounder and COO, Mary Ray, for another...
    Mht dr boster internal ad post event carousel
    Medically reviewed by Aaron Boster, M.D. Dr. Aaron Boster brought his characteristic energy and...

    Dr. Boster Gets Real Answering Your Top MS Questions

    Medically reviewed by Aaron Boster, M.D. Dr. Aaron Boster brought his characteristic energy and...
    Mht mymsteam resourcecenter article3 carousel managing ms leg weakness
    Article written by Kelly Crumrin Medically reviewed by Dr. Amit ShelatLegs like jelly or noodles,...

    Managing MS Leg Weakness

    Article written by Kelly Crumrin Medically reviewed by Dr. Amit ShelatLegs like jelly or noodles,...
    Mht mymsteam resourcecenter article1 carousel ms fatigue how to fight fatigue with ms
    Article written by Kelly Crumrin Medically reviewed by Dr. Amit ShelatFatigue is a very common...

    MS Fatigue: How to Fight Fatigue with MS

    Article written by Kelly Crumrin Medically reviewed by Dr. Amit ShelatFatigue is a very common...
    Mht mymsteam resourcecenter article2 carousel managing ms muscle weakness
    Article written by Kelly Crumrin Medically reviewed by Dr. Amit ShelatIn people with multiple...

    Managing MS Muscle Weakness

    Article written by Kelly Crumrin Medically reviewed by Dr. Amit ShelatIn people with multiple...
    Screen shot 2020 03 04 at 2.57.32 pm
    Article written by Laurie Berger Medically reviewed by Dr. Amit ShelatThe MS hug is a painful...

    The MS Hug Explained: Description, Symptoms, and Causes

    Article written by Laurie Berger Medically reviewed by Dr. Amit ShelatThe MS hug is a painful...
    Scale 403585 1920
    Article written by Alison Channon Medically reviewed by Dr. Amit ShelatMaintaining a healthy...

    Weight Gain and MS

    Article written by Alison Channon Medically reviewed by Dr. Amit ShelatMaintaining a healthy...
    Brain lesions in ms
    Article written by Nyaka Mwanza Brain lesions in multiple sclerosis are caused by an abnormal...

    Brain Lesions in MS: What You Must Know

    Article written by Nyaka Mwanza Brain lesions in multiple sclerosis are caused by an abnormal...
    Mht video ms   covid 19 an interview  with  dr. aaron boster vertical04 carousel
    Article written by Eric Peacock Medically reviewed by Dr. Aaron BosterAccording to Dr. Aaron...

    MS Treatments and COVID-19: What to Discuss With Your Neurologist

    Article written by Eric Peacock Medically reviewed by Dr. Aaron BosterAccording to Dr. Aaron...
    Mht covid19 essentialupdates carousel
    During the COVID-19 pandemic, MyMSTeam will provide summaries and links to articles of importance...

    COVID-19 and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Essential Updates

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, MyMSTeam will provide summaries and links to articles of importance...
    MyMSTeam My multiple sclerosis Team

    Two Ways to Get Started with MyMSTeam

    Become a Member

    Connect with others who are living with multiple sclerosis. Get members only access to emotional support, advice, treatment insights, and more.

    sign up

    Become a Subscriber

    Get the latest articles about multiple sclerosis sent to your inbox.

    Not now, thanks

    Privacy policy
    MyMSTeam My multiple sclerosis Team

    Thank you for signing up.

    close