FRIDAY, Nov. 6, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that people with multiple sclerosis who have relapses within five years of developing the disease are more likely to suffer from severe limitations in the short term than others with the condition.
The findings, published Nov. 4 in Neurology, show that people with the disease who relapse within five years of developing it are nearly 50 percent more likely to need a cane to walk during that time period.
But on the brighter side, the study found that early relapses seem to be less important to the progression of the disease later in life.
"Our findings may represent an important message to people diagnosed with MS today," study author Helen Tremlett, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology. "Those who have a history of relapses could potentially be offered reassurance that, as time goes on, these relapses will have a diminishing effect on their everyday lives."
For their study, the researchers looked at the experiences during an average of 20 years of nearly 2,500 people with multiple sclerosis who experienced relapses in British Columbia. During those two decades, 11,722 relapses were recorded.
Tremlett said the study also supports the development of "new medications that target axonal [nerve] degeneration, which is suspected of causing permanent disability, especially for people who have had MS for many years or who are older at diagnosis."
The study also reported that relapses in people younger than 25 affected disability longer than they did in people older than 35.
"There may be a longer window of opportunity for treating younger people with MS right away, changing the course of progression later on," Tremlett said.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has more about multiple sclerosis.