Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating and chronic neurological disease that affects individuals in a number of different ways. Living with multiple sclerosis can be challenging. Symptoms often include fatigue, muscle weakness, vision problems and memory lapses. These symptoms have a significant impact on all aspects of life, whether it is taking care of your family, being gainfully employed or just doing normal daily activities. But, a diagnosis of MS does not mean the end of living well. There are many different ways, treatments and lifestyle changes that can be implemented to help you manage your disease and continue to live your life.
The first step, after getting diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, is taking an active role in managing your disease. This active role means becoming as educated is possible about the disease process and the different treatment options that are available to you. Implementing treatment options which can be integrated well into your lifestyle can help slow the progression of the disease, reduce any relapses and help you live more comfortably.
Managing your multiple sclerosis also means managing your medications. With advances in today’s technology and medicine individuals have a variety of choices for medical treatment. A variety of medications can also mean multiple different types of side effects which must be managed. Discuss your options with your healthcare practitioner and work closely with your pharmacist to decrease the side effects from the medications you use as well as potentially decreasing the number of medications you must use to manage the disease and the side effects.
Managing your physical symptoms successfully can also be achieved using suggestions from both physical therapy and occupational therapy. For instance those individuals who suffer from visual problems may find relief using medication but may also find that patching one eye or using a magnifying light at the computer or desks will also offer relief. Individuals who have visual symptoms should look for low vision computer enhancement products and work diligently to keep their desks and personal toiletries organized to decrease eyestrain.
Muscle weakness will cause problems with walking and a physical therapist may be able to help with exercises to improve strength and flexibility. Physical therapists can also help you move more easily or successfully complete your daily living tasks without the assistance of others.
Many people who suffer from multiple sclerosis also experience numbness. Most of the time this numbness is not disabling but it can be dangerous. This is because the body is no longer able to sense heat and you can easily get burned without knowing it. Watch yourself around sources of heat such as fire and hot water and consider turning down the temperature on the hot water heater in order to decrease the risk of a significant burn at home.
The symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be painful. While medications are available to help with neurological pain, physical therapy programs and a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator, or TENS unit, can help achieve pain management without the side effects of medication. By improving and strengthening the musculoskeletal system patients are often able to decrease pain.
Decreased nerve innervation to muscles will affect not only the musculoskeletal system which controls movement, but also the bowel and bladder system. By establishing and maintaining good habits individuals can help to prevent bowel and bladder problems in the future. It’s important to drink at least six to eight glasses of fluid every day and to add fiber to the diet to decrease the risk of constipation. Because advancing symptoms of multiple scleros often decreases the amount of exercise that an individual will attempt, it can in crease the risk for constipation from decreased activity. Be sure to discuss any bowel concerns with your physical therapist before starting any exercise program.
Almost 80% of people with MS will experience fatigue. This lack of energy can be debilitating and depressing. It’s important for individuals to plan their day and schedule the most important activities for the times of the day when they have the most energy. Although it may be difficult, you should eliminate low priority tasks to conserve energy as possible. It is also important to learn to take naps during the day. Believe it or not a 30 minute nap can be refreshing and provide you with new energy. Avoid becoming overheated because this will also tax your limited energy reserves.
One of the most frightening symptoms of multiple sclerosis is cognitive impairment. Although it may appear, or feel, as if these cognitive difficulties are similar to dementia they are not. If you start to forget or become confused tried to stay calm. Take a few minutes to clear your mind and your memory. Try some of the following suggestion to help prevent these incidences. Keep a daily diary with your appointments, reminders and a list of items you wish to accomplish. Some people enjoy using electronic organizers for phone numbers and addresses and these can also keep your calendar. Organize your information, including all-important papers, into one place it easy for you to remember. By making a consistent routine you will have less difficulty with memory loss.
While the symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be a challenge to manage the advances in therapy have enabled individuals to live independently and maintain gainful employment for many years.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Living with MS
University of California SF: Living with MS
National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Healthy Living with MS
Virginia Mason Medical Center: Livingwith Multiple Sclerosis
US Department of Veterans Affairs: Living with Multiple Sclerosis