Secondary Progressive MS is the advanced course of Relapsing/Remitting MS. I recently talked about the different types of MS. Now I am looking at the characteristics of Progressive MS. As this series continues, I will discuss research and clinical trials, medications, "a day in the life," and other topics relating to the progressive types of MS.
First, Let's take a quick look at what it means to have Progressive or Chronic Progressive MS. Most MSers have Relapsing/Remitting MS (RRMS), so that is the type most people are likely to know a little about. Because the majority of MSers have RRMS, most information, including online articles and blogs, talks about RRMS. If a type is not specified, it is probably about RRMS. However, that leaves a void where Progressive MS is concerned. Because there is little information, many people do not know about Progressive MS, and that includes MSers.
What makes progressive types different? They are characterized by a gradual increase in loss of function due to a gradual worsening of symptoms rather than clear relapses. Further, there is little or no recovery in the form of remittance periods. The disease progresses toward disability. Symptoms are similar regardless of the type. It is the rate and intensity that differs. That is true of all types of Progressive MS.
Today the focus is on Secondary Progressive MS. This is the type of MS I have. I am discussing the characteristics of this type and telling a bit of my story. Next time the focus will be on the Primary Progressive and Progressive Relapsing types of MS.
Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS)
After a period of time with Relapsing/Remitting MS (RRMS), some MSers slip into a progressive form of MS. Because Relapsing/Remitting precedes this form, it is called Secondary Progressive. Secondary Progressive MS is simply the second phase of MS when the disease course evolves from relapses to a steady progression.
The time period between RRMS and SPMS varies from as short as two years, to as long as forty years. Ten years after having RRMS, about half have developed SPMS. After thirty years, that evolution has increased to 90%. At any given time, Secondary Progressive accounts for about 30% of all MSers.
There is nothing to say how long the transition to Progressive will take any individual, or if an MSer will escape the progressive route all together. Although anyone with RRMS can develop SPMS, men as well as people who develop RRMS at a later age are more likely to move into progressive soon after first showing signs of MS. It is believed, but not yet proven, that the disease-modifying drugs available today may delay that transition. That sounds promising to me!
Some MSers believe they know progressive has set in when functional damage continues without any recognizable relapse. There is often new or increased cognitive difficulty, as well as problems walking, and new or more intense symptoms continuing without acute attacks. It is time to talk to the neurologist.