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MS research update - Review of suicide risk in MS - 21 November 2012

Life can be tough at times for anyone and having MS can significantly add to the list of things that someone has to deal with. On top of this, anxiety and depression are more common in people with MS than in the general population. All this can result in some people with MS having thoughts of suicide, as life can seem too much at times.

This study reviewed the risk of suicide in people with MS.

How the study was carried out

The researchers reviewed the results of 12 previous studies which had been published in peer reviewed journals (indicating that they were high quality studies).

What was found

Most of the previous studies had found a higher rate of suicide in people with MS than in the general population. MS-related risk factors included severe depression, having a progressive type of MS, an earlier disease course or higher level of disability. In addition, people in certain situations were more at risk of suicide. They included those on a low income, who were socially isolated, younger or not driving.

What does it mean?

The researchers suggest that health professionals should be aware of the higher risk of suicide in people with MS.

Pompili M, Forte A, Palermo M, et al.
Suicide risk in multiple sclerosis: A systematic review of current literature.
J Psychosom Res. 2012 Dec;73(6):411-7.

More about risk of suicide

Suicide or thoughts of suicide are topics that are difficult to talk about and completely taboo in some circles.

Families and friends can often be really supportive. However, sometimes, someone may feel that they want to protect those closest to them so they don't want to say exactly how they feel. Sometimes, they may worry that, if they explain what thoughts they are experiencing, they won't be taken seriously as "everyone has a bad day occasionally".

Support and advice

Health professionals can be really helpful in providing support and by referring someone to specialist services if appropriate. Your GP or MS nurse can help if you are having suicidal thoughts or are concerned about someone else.

There are also confidential helplines like the Samaritans who will help talk things through. You can reach them on 08457 90 90 90 They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Other options for support can be found on the NHS Choices web site including groups who specialise in helping children, young people or men with suicidal thoughts.

NHS Choices has a range of other useful information including:

Depression and MS

Depression and anxiety are more common in MS than in the general population. It is estimated that about half of all people with MS will experience an episode of depression at some stage.

You can read more about anxiety in the A-Z of MS. There is also information on depression.

The following can be signs of depression and, if you experience any of these, you might want to talk to your doctor or MS nurse.

  • Persistent sadness lasting more than two weeks, or unexplained tearfulness
  • Altered sleep patterns - finding it difficult to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt and low self-esteem - you lose interest in personal care and the way you look
  • Reduced energy and inability to concentrate or take pleasure in anything
  • Social withdrawal
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

Depression can occur at any time in MS including in response to diagnosis, a relapse or difficult circumstances. Some medications can have depression as a side effect, in which case, trying a different drug can make a big difference. Although depression can be the consequence of living with a long term condition, it can also be a symptom of MS due to damage to parts of the brain that are involved in mood and emotion.

A range of treatments are available for depression and usually work well. You may be offered anti-depressant drug treatment or talking therapies or a combination of both.

Research by topic areas...

Symptoms and symptom management

Labiano-Fontcuberta A, Benito-León J.
Understanding tremor in multiple sclerosis: prevalence, pathological anatomy, and pharmacological and surgical approaches to treatment.
Tremor Other Hyperkinet Mov (N Y). 2012 Sep 14;2012(2). doi:pii: 109.

Claros-Salinas D, Dittmer N, Neumann M, et al.
Induction of cognitive fatigue in MS patients through cognitive and physical load.
Neuropsychol Rehabil. 2012 Nov 16. [Epub ahead of print]

Morrison S, Sosnoff JJ, Sandroff BM, et al.
The dynamics of finger tremor in multiple sclerosis is affected by whole body position.
J Neurol Sci. 2012 Nov 7. pii: S0022-510X(12)00563-1. doi:10.1016/j.jns.2012.10.007. [Epub ahead of print]

Fraser CL, Davagnanam I, Radon M, et al.
The time course and phenotype of Uhthoff phenomenon following optic neuritis.
Mult Scler. 2012 Jul;18(7):1042-4.

Other treatments

Foroughipour M, Bahrami Taghanaki HR, Saeidi M, et al.
Amantadine and the place of acupuncture in the treatment of fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis: an observational study.
Acupunct Med. 2012 Nov 14. [Epub ahead of print]

Fernandez O, Berger T, Hartung HP, et al.
Historical overview of the rationale for the pharmacological use of prolonged-release fampridine in multiple sclerosis.
Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2012 Nov 13. [Epub ahead of print]


Yoshimura S, Isobe N, Yonekawa T, et al.
Genetic and infectious profiles of Japanese multiple sclerosis patients.
PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e48592.

Dobson R, Giovannoni G, Ramagopalan S.
The month of birth effect in multiple sclerosis: systematic review, meta-analysis and effect of latitude.
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2012 Nov 14. [Epub ahead of print]

Assessment tools

Cook KF, Roddey TS, Bamer AM, et al.
Validity of an observation method for assessing pain behavior in individuals with multiple sclerosis.
J Pain Symptom Manage. 2012 Nov 15. doi:pii: S0885-3924(12)00464-2.10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2012.08.006. [Epub ahead of print]

Yu F, Bilberg A, Stenager E, et al.
A wireless body measurement system to study fatigue in multiple sclerosis.
Physiol Meas. 2012 Nov 15;33(12):2033-2048. [Epub ahead of print]

Causes of MS

Koch MW, Metz LM, Agrawal SM, et al.
Environmental factors and their regulation of immunity in multiple sclerosis.
J Neurol Sci. 2012 Nov 12. doi:pii: S0022-510X(12)00578-3. 10.1016/j.jns.2012.10.021. [Epub ahead of print]

Paediatric MS

Talab R, Talabova M, Klzo L.
Natalizumab in the treatment of pediatric multiple sclerosis.
Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2012 Oct 20;33(6):579-589. [Epub ahead of print]

Julian L, Serafin D, Charvet L, et al.
Cognitive impairment occurs in children and adolescents with multiple sclerosis: results from a United States network.
J Child Neurol. 2012 Nov 15. [Epub ahead of print]

Harding KE, Liang K, Cossburn MD, et al.
Long-term outcome of paediatric-onset multiple sclerosis: a population-based study.
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2012 Nov 15. [Epub ahead of print]

Marin SE, Banwell BB, Till C.
Cognitive trajectories in 4 patients with pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis: serial evaluation over a decade.
J Child Neurol. 2012 Nov 8. [Epub ahead of print]

Uccelli MM, Traversa S, Trojano M, et al.
Lack of information about multiple sclerosis in children can impact parents' sense of competency and satisfaction within the couple.
J Neurol Sci. 2012 Nov 7. pii: S0022-510X(12)00567-9. doi:10.1016/j.jns.2012.10.010. [Epub ahead of print]


Opara J, Jaracz K, Brola W.
Burden and quality of life in caregivers of persons with multiple sclerosis.
Neurol Neurochir Pol. 2012;46(5):472-479.


Psychological aspects

Alschuler KN, Jensen MP, Ehde DM.
The association of depression with pain-related treatment utilization in patients with multiple sclerosis.
Pain Med. 2012 Nov 8. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2012.01513.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Physical activity

Huisinga JM, Mancini M, St George RJ, et al.
Accelerometry reveals differences in gait variability between patients with multiple sclerosis and healthy controls.
Ann Biomed Eng. 2012 Nov 18. [Epub ahead of print]

Socie MJ, Motl RW, Pula JH, et al.
Gait variability and disability in multiple sclerosis.
Gait Posture. 2012 Nov 12. doi:pii:S0966-6362(12)00385-2. 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.10.012. [Epub ahead of print]


Turatti M, Gajofatto A, Bianchi MR, et al.
Benign course of tumour-like multiple sclerosis. Report of five cases and literature review.
J Neurol Sci. 2012 Nov 11. doi:pii: S0022-510X(12)00583-7.10.1016/j.jns.2012.10.026. [Epub ahead of print]


Geurts JJ, Calabrese M, Fisher E, et al.
Measurement and clinical effect of grey matter pathology in multiple sclerosis.
Lancet Neurol. 2012 Dec;11(12):1082-92.


Van den Berg PJ, Van den Berg GB, Westerhuis LW et al.
Occurrence of CCSVI in patients with MS and its relationship with iron metabolism and varicose veins.
Eur J Neurol. 2012 Nov 12. doi: 10.1111/ene.12010. [Epub ahead of print]


[no authors listed]
Review of the novelties presented at the 27th Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) (II).
Rev Neurol. 2012 Jun 16;54(12):734-49.

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