Quality of Life for MS Patients: Is it Health-Related? (Part One in Series)

  • What do you think of when you consider “quality of life”?  Do end-of-life issues come to mind?  How about disability or an inability to enjoy life?  Or, what about something as simple as holding your grandchild?  This is the first post in a series of Quality of Life topics.


    When I think of quality of life, I picture having the ability to do the things I wish to do.  Maybe that’s enjoying a day going to the movies without getting fatigued, or being able to remain gainfully employed, or even just being able to contribute to the family’s needs.  To do so, I choose to foster personal strengths, develop coping strategies, gain information and knowledge, while cultivating a positive outlook and the ability to choose joy.  These things are not always easy, multiple sclerosis or not.

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    As you may know, multiple sclerosis is a chronic, disabling, and progressive disease characterized by inflammatory demyelination within the central nervous system (CNS).  Symptoms which vary greatly depend upon the location of lesions can include sensory or motor disturbances (ie. numbness, pain, coordination difficulties, and weakness), bladder and/or bowel dysfunction, optic neuritis, severe fatigue, sexual dysfunction, spasticity, and cognitive decline.


    Consider Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) which is important to patients and should be one of the primary objectives in the management of all chronic diseases, including MS.  Regardless of the disease, the patient can cope and live a more productive life if HRQOL is maintained.  For an excellent primer on HRQOL, see Measuring Health-Related Quality of Life  Annals of Internal Medicine.  1993 April; 118(8):622-629.


    HRQOL is a multidimensional concept that includes an individual’s perception of their general well-being and the level of role-fulfillment across a range of different physical, psychosocial, and symptom-related phenomenon.  Four aspects to quality of life include clinical health, role-performance, adaptability, and well-being.  The major factors contributing to quality of life for the patient are ability to perform daily activities, level of well-being, satisfaction with life, and the impact of disease-related symptoms.


    Generic instruments (surveys) to assess quality of life include the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36), the Sickness Impact Profile (SIP), and the EuroQol EQ-5D.  Multiple sclerosis-specific validated instruments to assess quality of life include the Hamburg Quality of Life Questionnaire in MS (HAQUAMS), the Leeds MS Quality of Life (LMSQOL), and the RAYS scale.


    The MS Quality of Life 54 (MSQOL-54) combines the Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) with 18 additional items relevant for MS. The SF-36 scales include physical function, role-physical, bodily pain, health perceptions, vitality energy, social function, role-emotional, and mental health.  The additional 18 items include measurements of health distress, sexual function & satisfaction, pain, and more-specific social function.  A related combination instrument is the Functional Assessment of MS (FAMS).


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    The topics I wish to discuss in this Health-Related Quality of Life series include (but not limited to):


    1. Disease-Modifying Treatments and Quality of LIfe for MS Patients.
    2. Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Quality of Life for MS Patients.
    3. Psychosocial Aspects of Chronic Disease and Quality of Life for MS Patients.
    4. Economic and Public Policy View for Quality of Life for MS Patients.

      As we discuss these topics in greater detail, my hope is that you will share your thoughts, raise questions, and offer solutions.  Together, we will find additional Quality of Life issues to explore, as well as finding solutions to problems which help to enhance the Quality of Life of ourselves and those around us which is the true meaning of community and support.


      Next: Quality of Life for MS Patients: The Impact of Disease-Modifying Treatments (Part Two in Series)


      Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

    Published On: February 13, 2009