Common MS Myths & Misconceptions
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2015. | Last updated: November 2023
Several common misconceptions about MS which have persisted over time are explained below. Most of these myths overstate the difficulties that you may encounter living with MS. Most people with MS live long and productive lives and enjoy most of the same activities and pursuits that everyone else enjoys.
1. MS is a fatal or terminal disease
The fact is that the lifespan of a person with MS is just about as long as the lifespan of a person without the disease. Most people with MS die from the same health conditions (such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke) that are the most common causes of death in people without MS. There are cases of MS in which complications of the disease do contribute to poor health and a somewhat shortened lifespan. Also, some cases of MS have a rapidly progressive and malignant course, leading to early death, but these are rare. The lesson here is to concentrate on living. Now more than ever with advances in disease-modifying and symptomatic treatments, you can live a long, enjoyable, and full life with MS.
2. There are no cures or effective treatments for MS
Although there is currently no cure for MS, there are effective treatments to battle the disease. In fact, disease-modifying treatments and treatments for symptoms and exacerbations have gotten so good that most people with the disease can function at high levels most of the time. This is especially true when all of the rehabilitation options available are considered.
3. You shouldn’t have children if you have MS
This is one of the biggest myths about MS. Research has shown that people with the disease have healthy children and function well as parents and that children of parents with MS are happy and well adjusted. Pregnancy and childbirth do not make MS worse. Although a child with a parent with MS may have a somewhat higher chance of developing the disease, the risk is still very small.
4. Everyone with MS eventually winds up in a wheelchair
About two-thirds (that’s almost 7 out of 10) of people with MS only have mild-to-moderate disability and remain ambulatory. At some point you may need to use a walking aid, such as a cane to help with balance, but the idea that everyone with MS is destined to be wheelchair-bound is false. Even if you are among the one-third of people with MS who lose the ability to walk, with available assistive technologies and rehabilitation services, you can continue to stay mobile and active for a long time.
5. Having an exacerbation means that your medication is no longer working
Just because you have a relapse or exacerbation doesn’t mean that your medication has stopped working. None of today’s disease-modifying treatments are 100% effective. You will experience fewer exacerbations which may not be as severe, but relapses will still happen.