Widen your knowledge on the autoimmune disorder Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, with our guide on the facts about Multiple Sclerosis you need to know.
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a condition that affects the myelin that insulates spinal nerve and brain cells. Although the exact cause is not known, MS is considered an autoimmune disorder, and one of the facts about multiple sclerosis you need to know is that there is no cure for it but research is ongoing. There are an estimated 2.5 million cases of multiple sclerosis in the world, making it the most widespread disabling neurological condition affecting young adults. Although it’s possible to get a diagnosis at any age, multiple sclerosis is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 20 to 40. In the United States, there are about 200 new cases of multiple sclerosis diagnosed each week. Because the disorder affects everyone differently, and to varying degrees, the experience of living with MS depends on the person. However, there are some important facts about multiple sclerosis you need to know which apply to the majority of diagnosed people.
One of the common facts about multiple sclerosis you need to know is that patients tend to notice their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40. Usually, the symptoms experienced improve but then come back just as bad, or worse, than before. In some cases, the symptoms may come and go erratically but could be more constant. Because of this great deal of variation, it’s important to keep a diary of all symptoms experienced, whether you’re confident they’re related to the MS or not. Then, a doctor can evaluate them and help to determine if the symptoms are linked to another condition or to the MS. It’s also important to realize that it may be impossible to spot a pattern in your MS symptoms. You may just experience one of them and go for several months or even years without further issues. Sometimes a symptom will get worse very quickly, but you may notice that symptom only once.
Some of the early symptoms of MS include blurry or double vision, weakness and tingling in the arms and legs, poor balance and coordination, and a numbness or tingling sensation in certain parts of the body. As far as vision problems, they usually affect just one eye, and go away without intervention. Some people experience eye pain and temporary loss of vision in addition to blurriness. Among the important facts about multiple sclerosis you need to know, is that many of the most common symptoms of the condition can be well managed with MS treatment, so they will not necessarily disrupt your lifestyle.
One of those symptoms consists of unusual “pins and needles” or tingling sensations. Some people with MS may also feel stabbing pains or feel itchy. About half of patients with living with MS experience such bodily discomfort.
Fatigue is an even more frequent symptom for MS patients, with about 80 percent of them experiencing it. Many people report feeling tired despite getting a good night’s rest the night before, and the tiredness is usually unrelated to the amount of work a person performs. The fatigue is often most severe in the afternoon and can be accompanied by muscle weakness and a lack of mental sharpness.
Approximately the same percentage of MS patients have bladder problems including needing to urinate excessively, feeling the urge to go more at night and having difficulty emptying the bladder fully. These issues can also coincide with bowel movement problems.
Walking and keeping your balance can also be very difficult with MS. The condition causes muscle weakness, but many people also cope with numbness, dizziness and balance problems, all of which can make walking difficult.
Some of the statistical facts about multiple sclerosis you need to know are that about four out of 10 people experience muscle spasms, usually in their legs, as an early symptom of MS. Conversely, about 60 percent of people who are in the latter stages of progressive MS experience the same symptom. The severity ranges from a mild amount of stiffness to very strong spasms. Tremors can also occur in about half of all MS patients and be so strong that they make it hard to do everyday activities.
Although there are other symptoms that you may experience with MS, the ones discussed above are most common. As you’ve already learned, it’s very valuable to keep a diary of your symptoms so it is easier to track the changes in your mind and body that you notice, and then discuss them with your doctor.
Because there is not a single test that’s successful in diagnosing multiple sclerosis, doctors often rely on a variety of diagnostic approaches. A physician may order an MRI to look for disease-related changes in the brain and spinal cord. This method can detect the condition in about 90 percent of people who are suspected to have it. Additionally, a healthcare provider may do an analysis of your spinal fluid and do an evoked potential test that measures electrical activity in the brain.
Notable facts about multiple sclerosis you need to know include the fact that generally, people living with MS have the same life expectancy as those without it. However, patients who have severe and progressive forms of the disease may experience complications like pneumonia that can be fatal. Among patients who do not receive treatment for MS, about a third of them may have pronounced mobility problems. There is not currently enough data to say with certainty what the long-term prognosis is for people who begin MS treatment during the early stages of their disease and adhere to medical advice.
Since there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, treatments are usually divided into three categories: Those that help people recover from attacks, slow the disease’s progression and help people manage symptoms.
Drugs from a class called corticosteroids are often prescribed to reduce nerve inflammation. People who take them may experience side effects like elevated blood pressure, trouble sleeping and mood swings. Additionally, a treatment called plasmapheresis, or plasma exchange, involves separating the blood’s plasma from the cells, and then mixing the cells with a protein solution before transferring the blood back into the body. This course of treatment for MS is often recommended for people who have particularly severe MS symptoms or have not responded well to a steroid regimen.
One of the facts you need to know about multiple sclerosis is that people who are diagnosed with MS either have a type characterized by relapses and remissions, known as relapsing MS or relapsing-remitting MS, or are told they have primary progressive MS, which means the progression of the disease is continuous from the beginning and will get worse over time; there are currently no treatments that affect the progression of the latter type. People with relapsing MS have several pharmaceutical options that may slow the progression of symptoms. Most of the drugs are taken orally, but some are injected.
Treatment for better management of symptoms may involve several types of interventions. For example, regular visits to a physical or occupational therapist can help you learn stretches and exercises that can make some symptoms, such as muscle spasms and balance issues, easier to handle.
Muscle relaxants can be helpful if your spasms are very painful and severe. Lioresal, Baclofen and Zanaflex are a few common brand names of prescription muscle relaxants.
After assessing your symptoms, a doctor may prescribe other drugs to help reduce problems like excessive fatigue, bladder and bowel problems or severe pain.
There are certain lifestyle habits that may help alleviate symptoms and make it more possible to live a fulfilling life with multiple sclerosis.
For starters, listen to your body and make sure to get plenty of rest. Trying to do too much could make your symptoms worse and make it more likely that you’ll become so fatigued that you experience complications, such as falling.
It’s also important to eat a balanced diet of healthy foods. Although further research is needed to get conclusive evidence, small studies have indicated MS patients do well when eating a diet that’s low in saturated fats but rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Olive and fish oils may be beneficial, as well as vitamin D.
Monitor your body temperature, too, and be careful not to let your body get too hot. Symptoms of MS often get worse as body temperatures go up. Avoid too much exposure to heat and consider using accessories like cooling vests, especially if you live in a characteristically hot climate.
Most people are stressed from time to time, but some healthcare professionals believe stress can be a trigger for MS symptoms or cause them to get worse. Spend some time figuring out which methods are most helpful for allowing you to manage stress. Some people find success by doing things such as tai chi, yoga, breathing exercises or meditation. You may even find it beneficial to treat yourself to a massage periodically.
Multiple sclerosis can be a tough disease to live with, especially considering that the symptoms can affect every person differently. The good news is, thanks to the wide variety of treatments available, it’s still possible to live a productive life despite the diagnosis. For best results, keep in constant contact with your healthcare providers and keep them updated about which attempted treatments are working well and which ones are not producing the desired effect. In closing, now that you have a clear understanding of the facts about multiple sclerosis you need to know, it’s a good idea to stay abreast of current MS research, especially since new kinds of possible treatments are being discovered regularly while scientists are still searching for a cure.
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