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MS and Comorbidities: A Look into What This Means

By Mary Pettigrew

I write most often about living with multiple sclerosis. However, I don’t always write solely about MS. I also write about chronic illness in and of itself. Yes, my focus is on MS, but we must remember, ‘It’s not always MS.’ My dear friend and fellow freelance writer for MS Focus, Dan Digmann always says this and it is true. We must be cognizant of this. When something new pops up does that mean its MS related? Sometimes, maybe, possibly, or possibly not. This is where the topic of comorbidity might come into play.

The word, “comorbidity” sounds daunting in and of itself. I don’t like it because when I see the word comorbidity the word, “morbid” stands out. Once you understand what this word means it doesn’t seem so scary. It’s just factual. 

The definition of comorbidity is:

The simultaneous presence of two or more diseases or medical conditions in a patient. “Age and comorbidity may be risk factors for poor outcome.” Or a disease or condition that is simultaneously present with another or others in a patient. 

Comorbidities do not always coincide with having MS. It can be acquired or develop with any other disease. As we get older (and we’re all getting older), we will likely be faced with additional comorbidities along the way. 

For example, I have several friends who have MS and a multitude of other health issues as well. Does this mean one illness lead to the other or not? Not necessarily. Complications from one illness can certainly lead to other issues, but sometimes other health conditions can arise all on their own. 

Other morbidities may include, but are not limited to:
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Mental health (depression and anxiety)
  • Alzheimer’s/dementia
  • Cancer
  • COVID-19
  • Additional autoimmune diseases

For more information on this topic, visit verywellhealth.com/comorbidity-5081615.

I was diagnosed with MS in 2001. I was 35 years old. Prior to that, I dealt with endometriosis (was left to having a hysterectomy in 2003) and sinus infections. After my diagnosis with MS, I was diagnosed with Raynaud’s Syndrome, IBS/IBD, thyroid cancer (had successful surgery), GERD, trigeminal neuralgia, and a few other health conditions. Some of these issues may or may not be a cause or effect from my having MS. Nevertheless, I have them and I must see different specialists for nearly every issue. 

It can be troublesome, even exasperating, at times when we try to seek out advice from our neurologist only to be referred to another doctor whom they deem most appropriate as to knowing how to deal with our “non-MS” symptoms. However, there’s sometimes a valid reason why we might get sent off to another specialist. We must be our own best advocate and never stop asking questions. Ask as many questions as you deem necessary. The older we get, the more likely we are to acquire more health issues and comorbidities.