These symptoms often ‘cluster’ in first year after MS diagnosis

People newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) or clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) often experience a symptom ‘cluster’ that can include fatigue, pain, depression and anxiety, a new study has found.

Published in Multiple Sclerosis Journal, the study analysed data from 230 people in the year following their MS diagnosis. Half of the respondents experienced pain, 62.6% had fatigue, 47.4% reported depression and 38.7% experienced anxiety. Just over one-fifth of people didn’t have any symptoms. But nearly 60% of people experienced a cluster of two or more of the symptoms in the first year.

“Clusters of symptoms as seen in many patients in the first year after MS diagnosis can seem challenging but may also present opportunity to identify treatments that address multiple symptoms at once,” said Anna Kratz, Ph.D, co-author of the study. “For instance, antidepressants can help with both mood and somatic symptoms. When clinicians see these clusters of symptoms, their minds should turn to the options that interdisciplinary rehabilitation care can offer to address multiple symptoms at once.”

The researchers said the results indicate a need for comprehensive screening, such as if a patient reports fatigue, they should also be investigated for pain and other symptoms. “Finding the factors that predict symptom clustering, stability and change will help healthcare providers match prevention and treatment programs to patients,” they said.