Cognitive Dysfunction - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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Cognitive Dysfunction

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Symptoms

  • Memory impairment
  • Impaired attention/concentration
  • Slowed processing speed
  • Impaired executive functions
  • Impaired spatial relations
  • Impaired word-finding ability

Note: Cognitive deficits are often missed in a standard neurologic exam. Read more about brief screening batteries.

Treatments

Interventions:

  • Cognitive rehabilitation (S/LP, OT, or neuropsychologists)
  • Restorative approach: direct retraining exercises (have only limited benefit for daily activities)
  • Compensatory approach: aims to improve function via substitution of compensatory strategies/tools for the impaired function
  • Aerobic exercise to enhance cognitive function

Medications:

  • Disease-modifying agents may slow onset/progression; no other medications have been shown in controlled trials to improve cognition in people

Psychosocial Implications

  • Individual: denial; anxiety; loss of self-esteem/self-confidence; depression; may interfere with self-care and independence
  • Interpersonal: family strain; marital strain; impaired communication; role shifts within the family
  • Employment: major cause of high unemployment rate in people with MS
  • Healthcare: may affect communication with providers, coordination of care, and compliance with treatment

Resources for clinicians

Resources for patients

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