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Multiple Sclerosis – “What is it? & Living with the Diagnosis”

What Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is as a Disease Process?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).

With MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. As the disease progresses it can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.

There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease, and manage symptoms.

While it is most often diagnosed in young adults aged 20 to 49, younger children and older adults are also diagnosed with the disease.

How is it diagnosed?

There are no specific tests for MS. Instead, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis often relies on ruling out other conditions that might produce similar signs and symptoms, known as a differential diagnosis.

Your doctor is likely to start with a thorough medical history and examination. Such as blood tests, spinal tap (lumbar puncture), MRI, evoked potential tests and so on.

In most people with relapsing-remitting MS, the diagnosis is fairly straightforward and based on a pattern of symptoms consistent with the disease, and confirmed by brain imaging scans such as an MRI.

Diagnosing MS can be more difficult in people with unusual symptoms or progressive disease. In these cases, further testing with spinal fluid analysis, evoked potentials and additional imaging may be needed.

What are some symptoms of MS?

  •  Balance, and vertigo, or dizziness problems
  •  Bladder Dysfunction
  •  Bowel Dysfunction
  •  Cognitive Impairment
  •  Depression
  •  Fatigue
  •  Difficulty in walking)
  •  Vision problems
  •  Pain
  •  Paroxysmal Symptoms
  •  Sensory Impairment, Numbness / Tingling
  •  Sexual Dysfunction
  •  Spasticity
  •  Tremor
  •  Heat Intolerance
  •  Motor Weakness
  •  Difficulty speaking
  •  Difficulty swallowing
  •  Dry Mouth
  •  Hormonal Influences for women with MS
  •  Uncontrolled or involuntary laughter and/or crying
  •  Poor coordination or incoordination
  •  Mood Lability / Bipolar Affective Disorder

The Various Types of MS?

There are various types of MS:

  • Clinically Isolated Syndrome
  • Relapsing-remitting MS
  • Secondary-progressive MS
  • Primary-progressive MS

Living & Coping with the Diagnosis

Each individual’s experience with MS will be very different. Managing the disease will also be different for each person. Life with MS can be challenging, and its effects can have a significant impact on those with the disease, their loved ones and their caregivers.

If you or someone close to you has just been newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the news can be overwhelming and it is normal to feel a wide range of emotions and feelings.

There are various ways to cope with this news and every individual will react differently to the diagnosis.

Living with any chronic illness can be difficult. To manage the stress of living with MS, consider these suggestions:

  •  Maintain normal daily activities as best you can.
  •  Stay connected to friends and family.
  • Continue to pursue hobbies that you enjoy and are able to do.
  • Contact a support group, for yourself or for family members.                              
  • Healthline: Living with Multiple Sclerosis  
  • Healthline’s MS Buddy    
  • MS Connection                                                                                                      
  • MS World                                                                                                           *  
  • MS Lifelines
  • doctor or a counsellor.

Lifestyle changes and home remedies

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Exercise
  • Cool down
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Relieve stress

MS treatments

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. Treatment typically focuses on speeding recovery from attacks, slowing the progression of the disease and managing MS symptoms. Some people have such mild symptoms that no treatment is necessary.

  •  Corticosteroids
  •  Plasma exchange
  •  Aubagio® (teriflunomide)
  •  Avonex® (interferon beta-1a)
  •  Betaseron® (interferon beta-1b)
  •  Plegridy® (peginterferon beta-1a)
  •  Rebif® (interferon beta-1a)
  •  Extavia® (interferon beta-1b)
  •  Copaxone® (glatiramer acetate)
  •  Gilenya® (fingolimod)
  •  Lemtrada® (alemtuzumab)
  •  Tecfidera® (dimethyl fumarate)
  •  Tysabri® (natalizumab)
  •  Ocrevus (Ocrelizumab)
  •  Mitoxantrone
  •  Physical therapy
  •  Muscle relaxants
  •  Medications to reduce fatigue
  •  Medication to increase walking speed
  • Other medications

To learn more about MS treatment, visit the MS Society website.

Reference:

1. mssociety.ca

2. mayoclinic.org

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