Andy: At what point does secondary progressive MS usually get diagnosed?
Dr Helen Ford, Neurologist: It’s difficult to generalise in MS about the onset of secondary progressive MS. Secondary progressive MS usually follows on from relapsing remitting MS and if you look at a population overall, it maybe occurs about ten to 15 years after the onset of MS. What’s different about secondary progressive MS is people don’t carry on having relapses or attacks, so symptoms tend to persist with secondary progressive MS and don’t tend to recover. There’s a really big need that we have, really for more research into secondary progressive MS, and as you probably know, there’s been a lot of research that has focussed on relapsing remitting MS. It’s quite exciting now that there’s more of an emphasis on secondary progressive MS and more investigation of new treatments, particularly in what we call neuroprotection, so treatments that will stop the nerve loss that is underpinning secondary progressive MS.
Andy: Should people with relapsing remitting MS expect to get progressive MS, as you said, sort of typically it’s ten to 15 years, is that something that they should expect to have more than likely or perhaps should people be thinking well, actually, maybe not, because it doesn’t always happen?
Dr Helen Ford:I think it’s so variable, so I think things in MS never happen exactly as you would predict from an overall population. So some people don’t develop secondary progressive MS and some people may develop very mild disease progression. It’s often that people actually go through what we call a transition phase between relapsing and remitting, and secondary progressive MS. So sometimes people expect that there’ll be a very clear cut-off, and actually it’s never really very clear and it’s very hard to diagnose at a single visit, it’s more as time goes on people may notice that actually, they’re not having relapses as they were before and that maybe symptoms are persisting and not going away.
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