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Understanding quality of life across different clinical subtypes of multiple sclerosis: a thematic analysis

Quality of Life Research
Hikari Ando, Rosanna Cousins, Carolyn A. Young
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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease that has different clinical presentations and illness trajectories. The aim of this study was to explore factors that are important for quality of life (QoL) of people with MS (pwMS), and to understand how they may differ across three subtypes.


Both convenience and purposive sampling were employed. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with people with relapsing–remitting MS (n = 16), secondary progressive MS (n = 14), and primary progressive MS (n = 13). All interviews were audio recorded and then transcribed verbatim for thematic analysis involving both inductive and deductive processes. A separate analysis for each subtype was made during the inductive process before examining for similarities and differences across the three subtypes in the deductive process.


Four factors were identified to have an important influence on QoL of pwMS: restricted and disrupted enjoyment, disturbed future, challenged sense of self, and well-being of significant others. The themes reflect how pwMS commonly perceived enjoyment as a purpose of life, while also illustrating how their QoL may be questioned because of new perspectives going forward with MS, challenges to their sense of self, and increased concerns for their significant others as a result of MS. Subtype differences were attributed to different illness trajectories: relapsing or progressive.


There are subtype differences in the negative impact of MS on QoL. Clinicians are encouraged to understand the challenges of different illness trajectories, in particular the traumatic nature of relapses and steady worsening of symptoms among those with progressive subtypes of MS.

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