Doctors may be able to determine the progression and severity of multiple sclerosis in a patient by measuring the time it takes them to walk 25 feet. This is according to a study published in the journal Neurology.
Common symptoms of MS include fatigue, numbness, walking and coordination problems, vision problems and cognitive dysfunction.
The "25-foot walk performance" is already used to determine the level of disability in a person suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), but the researchers say the findings show that the time it takes for a patient to walk this distance may be an indicator of disease progression and severity.
For the study, the researchers analyzed 159 patients with MS who were asked to carry out a timed 25-foot walking test.
Patients were also asked about their employment, their ability to do daily activities, and whether they needed a cane or any other assistance to help with mobility.
A second group of 95 patients with MS was used to confirm the team's results.
Walk time 'determines how MS affects patients'
The researchers found that patients who took longer than 6 seconds to walk 25 feet were more likely to be unemployed, have a change in occupation as a result of the disorder, use a cane for walking and require help with day-to-day activities, such as house cleaning and cooking.
Of patients who took less than 6 seconds to walk to 25 feet, 59% were employed compared with 29% of patients who took longer than 6 seconds.
Of the walkers who were faster than 6 seconds, 43% reported a change in occupation as a result of MS, compared with 71% of patients who took longer than 6 seconds.
They were also 70% more likely to be unable to carry out day-to-day activities, such as grocery shopping, house cleaning, laundry and cooking.
Timed walk 'provides benchmarks' for MS progression
Myla D.Goldman of the University of West Virginia in Charlottesville says that these findings could be useful in providing "benchmarks" in the progression of MS:
"We already know that the timed 25-foot walk test is a meaningful way to measure disability in MS."
"Our study builds on that research by providing a clearer idea of how walk time can provide information about how a person's disease progression and disability impacts their everyday activities and real-world function.
Based on these findings, we propose that a timed 25-foot walk performance of 6 seconds or more, and 8 seconds or more represent meaningful benchmarks of MS progression."
The researchers note that although their findings were confirmed in two groups of patients with MS, further research is needed to determine the relationship between movements along the benchmarks of the timed 25-foot walk test, and changes in the "functional independence and real-life anchors" of MS patients.
"As well," the researchers add, "larger longitudinal studies across the entire performance of the times 25-foot walk continuum are needed to expand our understanding of the clinical meaningfulness of observed changes in this very important MS outcome."
Medical News Today recently reported that scientists have discovered a soil-based bacteria present in humans that may trigger MS.