Natural history of multiple sclerosis symptoms

Int J MS Care. Fall 2013;15(3):146-58. doi: 10.7224/1537-2073.2012-053.


The North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS) Registry is a database that contains information from over 35,000 patient volunteers on symptom severity in 11 domains commonly affected in multiple sclerosis (MS): mobility, hand function, vision, fatigue, cognition, bowel/bladder function, sensory, spasticity, pain, depression, and tremor/coordination. The Registry affords a unique opportunity to study the frequency and severity of domain-specific impairment in a contemporary, mostly treated MS cohort over the course of the disease. The objective of this work was to calculate symptom prevalence in each of the 11 domains for years 0 to 30 from symptom onset. The resulting "symptom prevalence tables" demonstrate that a majority of participants perceive at least some degree of impairment in most domains as early as the first year of disease. The severity of impairment increases with disease duration across all domains, but the patterns of disability accumulation differ. The symptom prevalence tables illustrate the magnitude of perceived impact of the disease and highlight the extent of unmet need in symptomatic management. The tables are easy to use and allow MS patients and their clinicians to compare an individual's own impairment in any of the 11 domains to that of NARCOMS participants with the same disease duration.