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How long can you live with multiple sclerosis?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Dec 7, 2021.

Official answer


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is not generally considered life-threatening and most people will live a normal life-span. One study has found that the average life expectancy for people with MS is 76 years of age. In 2019, the U.S. life-expectancy averaged 78.8 years, and in 2020 it declined to 77.3 years, primarily due to the COVID pandemic. Many people with MS may live for 25 to 35 years or longer after their diagnosis.

Survival is improving in MS patients, but chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, depression, or diabetes may lower life expectancy in MS. Your age at diagnosis, how quickly your MS progresses and your response to treatment may also affect your life expectancy.

How does multiple sclerosis affect your life expectancy?

One study found that life expectancy is shortened in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) by about 7.5 years compared to the general population without MS.

  • Researchers found that the median survival was 75.9 years for people with MS compared to 83.4 years in the matched population without MS.
  • Having other medical conditions also increased mortality in MS patients, but not more than in people without MS.
  • Over 40% of deaths were reported as due to MS or complications from MS.

Can you live a normal life with MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a central nervous system (CNS) medical condition that attacks the brain, spinal cord, and optic (eye) nerve. It is most commonly first diagnosed in younger adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years.

Common symptoms with early MS disease may include:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • numbness or tingling sensations
  • vision problems
  • walking problems
  • bladder / bowel or sexual dysfunction
  • depression
  • problems with thinking clearly

However, not everyone has a poor prognosis. Roughly 20% to 40% of patients with MS do not have significant disability 10 years after their diagnosis. Most people with MS have periods of symptoms (attacks) followed by a recovery period when symptoms improve. In some patients, however, the condition will gradually progress over time without a relapse.

There is not yet a cure for MS and the nerve damage that occurs is not reversible. Early treatment and lifestyle changes can make a positive impact on one's quality of life. Newer treatments - known as disease-modifying drugs - may cut the number of MS relapses and slow disease progression and disability.

Learn more: The Latest Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

In order to live a more normal life with MS, it is important that you work with your healthcare team closely, adhere to your medication regimen, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise regularly, do not smoke, avoid alcohol or only consume in moderation, lower your stress, and keep a healthy weight. Learn what triggers your symptoms, such extreme heat or cold, and try to avoid them.


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