Due to advances in treatments, care, and lifestyle adjustments, MS often progresses slowly. Many studies show that, nowadays, about two-thirds of all patients retain a fair degree of mobility — the ability to walk, although likely with an assisted device — some 20 years after being diagnosed. Assisted devices can range from supports to aid in walking, to scooters used on occasion to save energy and avoid fatigue.
The course of the disease depends on each patient’s risk factors, like having a family member with MS, cigarette smoking, and vitamin D sunlight exposure. And, among African-Americans, the disease tends to be a more progressive form and progression can be quicker.
MS prognosis is thought to be better for people with relapsing-remitting MS than for those with progressive forms of MS, likely because of a better response to disease-modifying therapies.
Studies on life expectancy in MS
A 2013 review study published in the Neurology journal, citing data “from numerous large cohort registries”— “Mortality in patients with multiple sclerosis” — estimated that people with MS live on average 7–14 fewer years others. It, however, also considers MS and survival a “poorly described aspect of the disease.” The study found many factors that affect life expectancy in these patients, including the age at MS onset, the level of severity, the rate of disease progression, and types of treatment available. Long-term disability is not necessarily a cause of death for MS patients.