It impacts approximately 500,000 people within the U.S. alone, and doctors don’t yet know the cause. Those who live with it are often left with limited mobility, among other symptoms. With March being Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, we thought we would take the time to talk about the signs, symptoms and treatment for multiple sclerosis.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis occurs when the myelin coating around the nerve fibers in the central nervous system become damaged, leading to an interference with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body. One analogy people often use is that multiple sclerosis is akin to an electrical wire that’s been stripped of its protective coating.
Who gets Multiple Sclerosis?
Doctors aren’t sure what causes multiple sclerosis, but they think it may have something to do with people being pre-disposed to it and then being exposed to something in their environment that sets it off. It has not been proven to be hereditary, but doctors do know that it’s much more prevalent among those of northern European descent. Women are also more prone to developing it than men. Multiple sclerosis usually develops between the ages of 20-50, but some have had it as young as 2 and as old as 75.
What are the signs of Multiple Sclerosis?
Some of the common signs include:
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs
- Partial or complete loss of central vision, usually in one eye, often with pain during eye
movement (optic neuritis)
- Double vision or blurring of vision
- Tingling or pain in parts of your body
- Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain head movements
- Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
- Slurred speech
These symptoms can also appear in other diseases, so make sure you are tested.
What steps should I take?
If you are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, here are a few things you should be prepared to do:
- Stay mobile. This can be accomplished through symptom management, mobility aids and using adaptive devices at home and at the office.
- Take charge of your diet, exercise and weight. It can be hard to maintain a good weight when you have limited mobility, but it can be done. Studies have also shown that a good diet and exercise can help with MS symptom management.
- Decide how to disclose. Who you tell about your condition—and whether you disclose to anyone at all—is entirely up to you and your comfort zone. Just realize your loved ones will be concerned and will need to be reassured—just as you will need their love and support in this time.
- Be good to yourself. When you first find out, it can be a shock. Don’t take on extra stress, don’t blame yourself, and if you need to, reach out to a mental health counselor or a clergy member for help coping.
We are also here to help. Not only does our staff listen to you with compassion, we can also help you find the devices you need to take back your mobility, including canes, crutches, wheelchairs and bathroom safety devices.