Prognosis varies considerably for multiple sclerosis patients, although the disease does not significantly alter life expectancy in most cases, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. Most patients do not develop severe disabilities, with approximately two-thirds retaining the ability to walk 20 years following diagnosis.
Although multiple sclerosis does not lower life expectancy by much, there is a higher than average incidence of suicide among those with the condition, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Furthermore, while two-thirds of patients remain ambulatory, many walk with canes and crutches consistently or at times, and some choose to use wheelchairs or electric scooters due to problems with balance or fatigue that makes walking tiresome. Approximately 20 percent of patients never experience further symptoms or are only mildly symptomatic following their first sign of the disease. On the other end of the spectrum, about 20 percent of those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis have a rapidly progressive form of the disease. The majority of patients experience some level of progression in their condition.
There are certain factors that increase the risk of having a severe form of the disease, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Those who are older than 40 when their symptoms first appear tend to have a worse prognosis, as do those whose first symptoms relate to urinary control, cognitive functioning or motor skills. Early symptoms impacting several areas of the body are also associated with a worse prognosis.