MS is neither contagious nor fatal. People with MS have a life expectancy that is not really any different from the general population. The leading causes of death in the MS community are heart disease, cancer, and stroke. MS tends to affect quality of life, not quantity of life. There are unusual variants of MS than can be very aggressive and potentially shorten life, but these are not the norm.
The most common characteristics of MS include fatigue, weakness, spasticity, balance problems, bladder and bowel problems, numbness, vision loss, tremor and vertigo. Not all symptoms affect all MS patients and symptoms and signs may be persistent or may cease from time to time.Because the signs and symptoms that define the clinical picture of MS are the result of nerve lesions causing disturbances in electrical conduction in one or more areas of the central nervous system, the nature of the symptoms that occur is determined by the location of the lesion.
In the beginning phases of multiple sclerosis, diagnostic tests, such as
The natural course of MS is highly variable, and it is impossible to predict the nature, severity or timing of progression in a given patient. Some people with MS will have a more progressive disease course than others.In some cases, the course of MS over the first five years may provide a clue to the progression of the disease over the next 10 years. Recent studies indicate that 90% of patients with minimal disability five years after onset were still ambulatory at 15 years. It is estimated that at 20 years after diagnosis, about 1/3 of people who receive no treatment may require a wheelchair or other assistive device.With the present immunomodulatory therapies, the goal is to slow the progression of disability. Some people with MS respond quite well and may have no progression over years. For others, the treatment may slow, but not stop the progression. It is important to be proactive and work with your healthcare provider in order to obtain the most appropriate treatment, thus obtaining the highest level of benefit.
Early treatment makes a difference. The necessity for early treatment in MS is becoming increasingly clearer. The time has passed for the “let’s wait and see how it goes” attitude before treatment is begun. The message is that early treatment seems to delay disability presumably by decreasing the injury to the nervous system by the multiple sclerosis. The drugs used for treating MS are currently: Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, Tysabri or Novantrone. Another option is alternative healing modalities. Many people find a combination of the two choices can achieve the best results.
Although diet is not currently considered a causative factor in MS, anecdotal evidence abounds from individuals with MS who have experienced health benefits by changing their diet. Eating consistently well over a period of time may help reduce fatigue, improve bladder and bowel problems, increase energy, and prevent bone loss. It may also positively impact mental and emotional health, including memory and concentration.To learn more, request a copy of Nutrition & MS by calling 1-888-MSFOCUS (673-6287).
By understanding some of the psychological changes that accompany chronic disease, one may take an active role to achieve a more healthy mental state. Psychotherapy or counseling, and body cooling are ways one can relieve stress. Some prefer alternative treatment options, including relaxation techniques (exercise, yoga, massage therapy, meditation, biofeedback, and music) to learn ways to manage unavoidable stress. With MS, the stress that must be managed is the “distress” that may hamper our ability to cope with the events and people in our lives.
For a woman with MS, the decision to have a baby can be more difficult. MS does not hinder a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant and carrying a child to full term. MS is only another factor in one’s decision to have a child, not the only one. Planning the pregnancy and getting all the information you need can make the decision process easier.
Together with your partner, visit your neurologist and discuss current disease activity and possible progression. With a bit of flexibility and a creative, proactive approach on the part of both parents, solutions to various challenges presented by MS are attainable. Attend a local MS support group meeting and talk to others who are successfully parenting with MS.To learn more, request a copy of Pregnancy for Women with MS by calling 1-888-MSFOCUS (673-6287).