Death From Multiple Sclerosis Complications: Unspeakable Bits From A Life With MS

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It’s important to understand that there are treatments, exercises, medications and devices to help us manage the most challenging multiple sclerosis complications– even those that can eventually contribute to death. Being that death is something all of us must face in our own time, it may be helpful to understand how multiple sclerosis might be a factor. That level of complication is relatively rare, but it does happen. Just as I respect the feelings and experiences of those with the mildest forms of our disease, I also feel it is important to recognize and respect the feelings and experiences of those with aggressive forms of multiple sclerosis that can hasten death.

So, what might be some of the “multiple sclerosis complications” that can cause death?

  • Pulmonary involvement
  • Severe infections, sepsis
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Suicide

Pulmonary Complications

A Society clinical bulletin on Pulmonary Function and Rehabilitation states that “Just as muscular weakness in the limbs occurs early in the disease and increases as the disease progresses, the same progressive weakening occurs in the ventilatory muscles. Ultimately, respiratory complications are considered the major cause of morbidity and mortality in individuals with advanced multiple sclerosis.”

Severe Infections

One of the hazards of advanced immobility due to multiple sclerosis can be pressure sores (commonly known as “bedsores”). Pressure sores begin as relatively benign problem, but if left untreated can quickly progress to a more serious concern (including sepsis – basically a full-body infection caused, in the case of pressure sores, by bacteria entering via the open wounds). Many factors can contribute to pressure sores; they include immobility or inactivity, decreased sensation, bowel or bladder incontinence and poor nutrition.
Other common infections which can lead to life-threatening consequences include recurrent and severe urinary tract infections (UTIs) and aspiration pneumonia.

Aspiration Pneumonia

Dysphagia – or swallowing problems – can cause food or liquid to be deposited into the lungs. The body sees this foreign matter as an intruder and sends its defenses to work. The resulting inflammation and fluid accumulation can lead to pneumonia. Aspiration Pneumonia is one of the multiple sclerosis complications.

Pulmonary Complications

A Society clinical bulletin on Pulmonary Function and Rehabilitation states that “Just as muscular weakness in the limbs occurs early in the disease and increases as the disease progresses, the same progressive weakening occurs in the ventilatory muscles. Ultimately, respiratory complications are considered the major cause of morbidity and mortality in individuals with advanced multiple sclerosis.”

Severe Infections

One of the hazards of advanced immobility due to multiple sclerosis can be pressure sores (commonly known as “bedsores”). Pressure sores begin as relatively benign problem, but if left untreated can quickly progress to a more serious concern (including sepsis – basically a full-body infection caused, in the case of pressure sores, by bacteria entering via the open wounds). Many factors can contribute to pressure sores; they include immobility or inactivity, decreased sensation, bowel or bladder incontinence and poor nutrition.
Other common infections which can lead to life-threatening consequences include recurrent and severe urinary tract infections (UTIs) and aspiration pneumonia.

Aspiration Pneumonia

Dysphagia – or swallowing problems – can cause food or liquid to be deposited into the lungs. The body sees this foreign matter as an intruder and sends its defenses to work. The resulting inflammation and fluid accumulation can lead to pneumonia. Aspiration Pneumonia is one of the multiple sclerosis complications.

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