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Am I More Likely to Develop Alzheimer’s if I Have MS?

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Updated October 01, 2009

Question: Am I More Likely to Develop Alzheimer’s if I Have MS?
From the minute I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), I became acutely aware that brains can malfunction. More specifically, I am now aware that my brain can malfunction and betray me in many ways. After recovering (at least partially) from the initial shock of receiving an MS diagnosis, I started wondering if the fact that I had MS increased the likelihood that I would develop Alzheimer’s disease in my later years.
Answer: No. A 2008 study showed that people with MS were no more or less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than anyone else in their age group. While this no doubt comes as a relief to most of us living with MS, many of us are still affected by MS-related cognitive dysfunction. This usually manifests as problems with short-term memory, maintaining concentration and completing word-finding problems, which can feel like some of the symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease or other kinds of dementia (and bring similar fears and frustrations).

For more on the differences between the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer's disease and MS-related cognitive dysfunction, read the full article: Does MS-related cognitive dysfunction progress like Alzheimer's disease?

Sources:

Dal Bianco A, Bradl M, Frischer J, Kutzelnigg A, Jellinger K, Lassmann H. Multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. Annals of Neurology. 2008 Feb;63(2):174-83.

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