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Comorbidities are Linked to Disease Activity: Addressing Them May Reduce the Effects of MS

June 26, 2020

Researchers report that, among 959 people with MS, comorbidities were common. Elevated cholesterol and anxiety were linked to an increased risk of disease activity. Having two or three comorbidities was linked to a higher risk of relapses than having one comorbidity. Comorbidities are often modifiable, so this study lends evidence that addressing them may improve MS.
  • An individual may be dealing with other disorders besides MS – such as high blood pressure or heart conditions – that can significantly impact their MS symptoms and progression. These “comorbidities” can delay MS diagnosis and accelerate progression and relapse rates. Researchers hope that treating people’s comorbidities may also improve their MS.
  • The team analyzed the records of people with MS who had participated in the CombiRX trial, a study comparing interferon-beta-1a, glatiramer acetate and a combination of these medications. Importantly, the trial participants were relatively young (mean age 38 years) and had MS symptoms for an average of four years.
  • “Treating persons with MS should not just be about choosing a DMT [disease-modifying treatment] to prevent disease progression,” noted Lorene M. Nelson, PhD (Stanford University) and Dennis Bourdette, MD (Oregon Health & Science University) in an accompanying editorial. “Neurologists need to treat the whole patient.” This includes managing comorbidities that increase the risk of disease worsening. Learn more about managing MS and another condition
  • Comorbidities are often modifiable through wellness interventions: managing weight, stopping smoking, increasing physical activity and addressing stress – all these are likely to have beneficial effects on MS.
“Comorbidity is associated with disease activity in MS: Findings from the CombiRx trial” by Amber Salter, PhD (Washington University in St. Louis) and colleagues was published online June 17, 2020, in Neurology.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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