Questions and Answers
Responses are provided as general educational resources and should not be interpreted as diagnoses, prognoses, or treatment suggestions. Information and perspectives represent the views of the individual author(s); Can Do Multiple Sclerosis is not responsible for the accuracy or currency of the responses. Readers should consult with their healthcare team.
What are the potential effects of COVID-19 on people 65+?
Nurse Practitioner Response:
Kathy Costello, ARNP
Vice President of Programs, Can Do MS
Older age is definitely a risk factor for contracting a more serious course of COVID. The age risk is mitigated with immunization. Getting COVID is still possible if immunized, but the risk of a poor outcome (hospitalization, need for ICU and/or death) is far less. Compromised walking and mobility are also risk factors for more severe COVID.
How unlikely is it to develop MS late in life? My husband just turned 80 and is experiencing sudden vision problems, numbness in extremities, fatigue, sudden spasms in his legs, and mental fog. How can I make an appointment with a MS specialist?
Rosalind Kalb, PhD
Senior Programs Consultant, Can Do MS
Thanks very much for your question – I can appreciate how challenging and scary it can be to develop so many symptoms at the same time. We know that it is highly unusual for a person in their 80s to develop MS at that stage of life – but not impossible. It can also happen that a person has MS for many years without experiencing any symptoms. In other words, the MS began earlier in life but caused symptoms at a much later time. When that happens, the person is unaware of the disease until the symptoms occur. This, too, is fairly rare. At age 80, there are many, many factors, including aging, that can cause the symptoms your husband is experiencing. A neurologist should be able to evaluate your husband’s symptoms and suggest an approach for figuring out the cause(s). You can consult a general neurologist in your area or you can call the National MS Society (1-800-344-4867) to request the names of MS specialists near where you live.
It seems like most of the comments from doctors and professionals are directed to the older community. However, we are also experiencing difficulties that are unrelated to MS. When it comes to symptoms, how do you know what is from MS and what is from aging? What should I focus most on?
Gail Hartley, MSN, NP, MSCN
Can Do MS Programs Consultant
Approximately 25% of people with MS are 65 and older. Therefore, we in the MS care field often focus on this age group. Many patients will ask "is it my MS or am I just getting older?" It's a good question to ask, and one that is not always easy to answer since MS and aging share many of the same symptoms. For example, as we age, our vision may change. But that is usually correctable with glasses, whereas optic neuritis (damage to the optic nerve) generally is not. Likewise, as we age, there may be changes in cognition, strength, balance, or bowel/bladder control. MS can cause similar challenges, but there are often subtle differences in the experience and sometimes in the treatment.
It is most important, however, not to jump to a conclusion and say "it’s just my MS" or "I'm just getting old." When you notice changes, this is the time to check-in with your health care provider. Your symptoms might be the result of a health issue completely unrelated to MS or aging--and you don't want to miss that! A careful assessment of your symptoms and appropriate medical tests are essential to making an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Then, focus on wellness. Take control of the things that you can do to stay healthy like eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly according to your ability, getting adequate sleep, and keeping a positive attitude.