If you have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), you know that it is a complex disease, and you may even be relieved to have found out what is behind all of your symptoms.
Because multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease, you will live with it all your life and make adjustments based on the symptoms you have and how you feel.
Every person with MS experiences it differently, which is why it is so important for you to partner with your medical team to create a treatment and lifestyle plan to ensure the highest quality of life despite the MS.
Behind Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. This means that your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself. There are many different kinds of autoimmune disease; multiple sclerosis attacks parts of your central nervous system, which includes your brain and spinal cord. It damages the coating on the messenger nerves that connect your brain and body. Much like electrical wiring, when the protective coating of these communication wires (nerves) is eroded, they may short-circuit or malfunction. This results in many of the symptoms caused by MS, including:
- Temporary vision problems, usually in one eye at a time
- Weakness or numbness, often on one side of the body
- Double vision that doesn’t go away
- Bladder and bowel problems, including incontinence
- Problems with your gait (walking), or feeling uncoordinated
- Feeling exhausted
- Slurred speech
- Feeling dizzy
- Nerve pain or shock-type sensations when you bend your neck forward
As MS progresses, you may also experience muscle spasms, and problems moving your legs. With all of these issues to deal with, you also may be more at risk for mood swings, depression, and feeling like you are being forgetful or have “fuzzy” thinking.
To help you cope with your MS, your doctors may recommend medical treatment and lifestyle modifications.
Medical Treatments for MS
Oral and intravenous corticosteroids prescribed by your doctor can help manage some MS symptoms. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications; they help calm inflammation of the nerves sparked by MS.
Plasmapheresis is a process in which a sample of your own blood is taken, and the blood cells are separated from the liquid part (plasma). The plasma is treated with a protein solution and then injected back into your body. This type of therapy, also referred to as a “plasma exchange,” may be used if corticosteroids haven’t helped you.
There is ongoing research into medications that can slow down the progression of MS. Talk with your doctor to find out more about the latest approved treatments.
Physical therapy can play an important role in helping counter some of problems with movement that MS may cause. Trained physical therapists or occupational therapists will show you what exercises and equipment to use in order to help maintain your strength and flexibility. This will help you with carrying out everyday tasks and help you maintain a normal gait (walk).
Muscle relaxants can help relieve muscle stiffness or spasms in your legs. There are a multitude of other treatments available to help with your specific symptoms such as fatigue or bladder and bowel problems.
Lifestyle Modifications for MS
If you have multiple sclerosis, it’s very important to take care of yourself and be as flexible as possible in your daily routine. For example, it helps to:
- Avoid and relieve stress: Yoga and massage may help you keep the ill effects of stress at bay; ask your doctor about additional stress management techniques and programs
- Exercise but get the okay from your doctor first
- Get lots of rest
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet: Talk with your doctor about getting a referral to a dietitian
- Keep cool: MS symptoms tend to flare up as your body temperature rises; so, in summer, run errands either early or later in the day, use air conditioning, and otherwise stay cool
Lastly, don’t allow MS to isolate you. Talk with family and friends, often. Tell them how they can be of help. Some people find support groups helpful. Whatever you choose, remember that focusing on what you enjoy and are able to do will help you cope with multiple sclerosis and live your life to the fullest.
If you have questions about multiple sclerosis or other conditions, please reach out to us at one of our convenient locations in Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida. You can also request an appointment online now.
Our patients benefit from a seamless and efficient transfer of expertise and information, creating a unique continuum of care. Founded in 1993, Intercoastal Medical Group includes more than 85 highly credentialed physicians in many medical specialties. Intercoastal is committed to providing the highest quality care possible by offering superior healthcare to adults no matter their medical need.