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elderly woman and caregiver sitting in garden

The Age of Onset for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms can begin at any age and will affect each individual differently.

However, there are certain age groups and symptoms that can indicate when you or a loved one need more support, and when it may be a good time to seek loving care from an enhanced assisted living community.

Let’s take a look at the common symptoms, the progression, and the multiple sclerosis (MS) age of onset.  

What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?

MS is a disease of the central nervous system, where the immune system attacks the protective cover of nerve fibers in the brain or spinal cord.

The symptoms a person experiences depend on how much nerve damage is present, and where the nerves are located.

In some people, MS can progress to the point where they can no longer walk. Other people may go through long periods of remission with no new symptoms occurring.

There’s no cure for this disease, but there are several treatments available that can help manage symptoms or speed up recovery after a relapse.

Relapsing-remitting vs. secondary-progressive MS

Most people with MS are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), where they will experience periods of active flares and periods of less severe symptoms.

Eventually, many of those with the relapsing-remitting form will develop secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS), where symptoms will steadily progress without remission.

Many people will develop SPMS within 10 to 20 years of the onset of the disease.

What are the most common symptoms of MS?

While MS symptoms will vary significantly from person to person over the course of the disease, common symptoms will appear as movement issues or vision problems.

These symptoms can include:

  • Numbness or weakness, often on one side of the body at a time
  • Electric-shock sensations with neck movements
  • Tingling or pain
  • Tremor and loss of balance
  • Partial or complete vision loss in one or both eyes
  • Double vision or blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Slurred speech
  • Issues with bladder, bowel, and sexual function

Your doctor will perform a series of tests to diagnose MS, including a neurological exam, blood tests, MRIs, and screenings to check cerebrospinal fluid for abnormalities.

There’s no single test used to diagnose the disease, so doctors instead must rule out other causes for these symptoms.

Do aging and MS symptoms overlap?

Not many people are diagnosed with MS after age 50. The diagnosis usually occurs much earlier.

Some of these older adults may have late-onset MS, but most are receiving a delayed diagnosis after years of unrecognized symptoms.

Among these older adults, MS symptoms can initially be mistaken for signs of aging, including balance issues, muscle weakness, cognitive issues, or sleep disturbances.

However, any new health issues, whether caused by natural aging or not, should be evaluated by a medical professional to rule out serious illness.

What causes multiple sclerosis?

There are no known direct causes of MS. It’s considered to be an autoimmune disease, because the body is attacking its own tissues.

With MS, the body’s immune system attacks myelin, a fatty substance that protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.

Medical professionals believe a combination of environmental factors and genetics can make some people more susceptible to MS than others. 

There are also certain risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing the disease, including:

  • Family history: If someone in your family has it, you are more likely to develop it
  • Sex: Women are two to three times as likely as men to develop MS
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Countries with temperate climates
  • Low levels of vitamin D
  • Other autoimmune diseases
  • Smoking

MS is likely to be diagnosed during a certain age range, rather than a disease that develops in senior adults.

What age are most people diagnosed with MS?

It’s surprising to some that the age of onset for multiple sclerosis is between the ages of 20 and 40.

Younger people and older people may also develop it, but this is the most common age range.

In older people, MS is referred to as late-onset multiple sclerosis (LOMS).

Progression can vary, but younger people often have relapsing-remitting MS for many years.

How does MS progress as we age?

While many people receive their MS diagnosis between ages 20 and 40, complications increase for older adults with MS.

The disease progression also is often faster in LOMS than in younger adults.

Older adults also are more likely to be diagnosed with primary-progressive MS (PPMS) than younger adults.

PPMS is a slow, steady decline in function due to nerve damage. The degree of disability will increase in the coming months and years.

The Kensington White Plains provides enhanced assisted living and memory care

Whether your loved one was recently diagnosed with late-onset MS, or they have entered the secondary-progressive or primary-progressive form of the disease, they likely are in need of increasing levels of support.

The Kensington White Plains is an enhanced assisted living and memory care community equipped to care for individuals with all forms of MS, from mild symptoms all the way to the highest levels of care.

We have partnered with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as well as the White Plains Hospital’s Multiple Sclerosis Center to educate and support those with the disease and their families.

The Kensington offers a full spectrum of clinical support, including end-of-life care. Our team is trained to expertly care for all individuals, and to create an atmosphere of love, trust, and family.

We welcome all residents, including those in need of the following services:

  • Intermittent feeding tubes
  • Wound care
  • Catheters
  • Diabetics needing daily insulin injections
  • Two or three person assists
  • Hoyer lifts
  • Onsite nurses 24 hours a day for administering medication

We also offer onsite rehabilitation services to help residents achieve their optimal level of independence, nutritious gourmet dining options, and a full calendar of life enrichment activities for all resident abilities.

We also provide specialized memory care to residents, with two dedicated memory care “neighborhoods” designed to accommodate those in any stage of memory loss.

The Kensington Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.

Reach out to us today to ask us questions and hear more about how we can support your loved one with MS. We offer true “aging in place,” where no matter what your loved one’s care needs are, they have a home with us.

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