Cognitive changes are a common and disheartening experience for those with multiple sclerosis (MS). Approximately half of MS sufferers report difficulty learning and remembering information, problem solving, focusing, and other high-level cognitive functions. These problems develop because the loss of myelin around nerve fibers interferes with the conveyance of memories to and from storage areas. Fortunately, these cognitive problems are not severe in 90-95% of MS patients.
A long-term study of 78 individuals with relapsing-remitting MS aimed to track the relationship of memory issues to overall health. First, the level of cognitive impairment at diagnosis was noted by the researchers. Then, each patient was evaluated every six months for eight years. The extent of cognitive impairment at diagnosis served as a predictor of which patients would convert to definite MS. In addition, these memory problems predicted severity of disability over time and a transition to secondary progressive MS.
In sum, cognitive impairment is an important indicator that the health care team should be aware of; it can identify which patients are at high-risk of disease and disability progression when it comes to MS.
Pitteri M, Romualdi C, Magliozzi R, et al. Cognitive impairment predicts disability progression and cortical thinning in MS: An 8-year study. Mult Scler 2016 1352458516665496. [Epub ahead of print].