Multiple Sclerosis causes damage to the nerve cell’s sheaths within the spinal cord and brain. The disease is also a chronic condition that actively progresses. Speech impairment, numbness and muscular coordination are just some of the symptoms patients diagnosed with the disease experience. Severe, chronic fatigue, as well as blurred vision, is reported to also commonly accompany the disease.
Multiple Sclerosis is defined as a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms may include numbness, impairment of speech and of muscular coordination, blurred vision and severe fatigue. There is currently no cure for this debilitating illness, though there are said to be a number of disease-modifying drugs that can slow the progression of MS.
First it is important to take note that there a number of different types (or stages) of multiple sclerosis:
RRMS – Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis
This is the most common form of multiple sclerosis whereupon people develop symptoms that respond to treatment, and then resolve. The development of symptoms is often referred to as an exacerbation of the disease. Episodes of remission may last for several weeks to several years.
SPMS – Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
Diagnosed when the problems caused by exacerbation do not fully resolve during a remission, often occurring in patients that were initially diagnosed with RRMS.
PPMS – Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
Progresses over time, without episodes of remission or improvement of symptoms
PRMS – Progressive-Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis
This is identified in patients experiencing escalating symptoms over time, as well as intermittent episodes of remission.
Take careful note that if you’re not sure someone you love is suffering from symptoms of multiple sclerosis, watch out for early signs. Every person is different and symptoms may not always represent themselves in the same manner within each patient. The progression of multiple sclerosis can also vary from person to person.
1. Research has found that vision problems are a first sign of multiple sclerosis. While the exact vision problems found in each patient may vary, there are a few general symptoms shared by patients effected by the disease. It is reported that color distortions, blurred vision and double vision are quite common amongst patients. Optic neuritis is also a common symptom, causing vision to rapidly grow poorer and often also resulting in pain within the eyes.
2. Diet is always a good place to start. There is no specific diet dedicated to the symptoms of MS but according to neurologist Mary Rensel, MD, staff neurologist at the Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory condition. She recommends an anti-inflammatory diet including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy oils.
Further research suggests a diet rich in omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. You can find these healthy fats in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, plant-based oils, and flaxseed. In accordance with a review of MS alternative therapeutic approaches published in the journal Expert Review of Clinical Immunology, diets that are low-fat but include omega-3 fatty acids hold promise as a way to manage MS symptoms.
3. Approximately 63% of patients diagnosed with this disease experience pain during the course of the disease. This was reported by a 2013 study reported in a journal called “Pain”. The study also reported neuropathic pain and headache to be some of the most common pain-types caused by the disease. Up to 43% of patients with the disease experience headaches and up to 26% of patients experience neuropathic pain. The go on to report that trigeminal neuralgia, a pain that is experienced in your face, is the least common pain-type experienced by patients with MS.
Trigeminal neuralgia causes a stabbing, often sharp pain in the face. The pain originates from damage that the disease caused to a specific nerve (trigeminal nerve). This nerve is reported to be responsible for facial sensations and motor functions.
4. It is stated that once diagnosis of multiple sclerosis has been confirmed, disease-modifying therapy is often recommended. Accordingly, this therapy may decrease the number of exacerbations that a patient experiences or decrease the severity of an exacerbation.
There are several types of modification drugs available to assist with the symptoms of MS, but keep in mind that there are always side effects.
5.Depression is a common issue among those suffering from multiple sclerosis, whether it be a side effect of a medication or otherwise just knowing that they are dealing with this disease, and will continue to deal with it for the rest of their lives.
The development of depression can be effected by several psychological, environmental and social risk factors. Symptoms associated with depression can also depend on a patient’s ethnicity, age and gender. It is important to take into account that only a clinical diagnosis is possible for depression, as no X-ray or laboratory tests are available for diagnosing the disease. It is reported that depression can often become another debilitating factor in patients with MS, thus it is essential to report depression-related symptoms to a medical professional in patients diagnosed with MS.
6. Make sure to remember to get your loved one out in the sun. According to Dr. Rensel “There is some relationship between low vitamin D and developing MS or worsening MS symptoms.” It is further stated that the relationship between MS and sunlight appears to be life-long with mention that people who spent childhood summer vacations in sunny spots seem less likely to develop multiple sclerosis later on.
There are several options for getting a daily dose of our favorite sun vitamin if you don’t want to (or can’t) go outside – back to the diet – eat vitamin D rich foods such as eggs, fortified milk and cod liver oil. Of course you can also take a vitamin D supplement.
7. Consider assisting your loved one in keeping track of MS symptoms. This will also be helpful to doctors. A symptoms log can be provided to a doctor to help them determine the progression rate of the disease, as well as to determine the effectiveness of the prescribed medication. Doctors can also detect a relapse through the use of such a log. A relapse is defined by previous symptoms becoming worse, or new symptoms appearing and being present for a period longer than 24 hours. The symptoms log should not only include the symptoms experienced, but also additional details such as when they occurred, how they affected the patient and for how long the symptoms were present.
8. Understand that MS Symptoms are unpredictable. In a statement by one doctor “over the course of the disease, some MS Symptoms will come and go, while others may be long lasting.” he says it will be different for each patient. Furthermore, take a look at this list of some of these symptoms in order to get an idea of what you’re looking for:
Numbness, Blurred Vision, Loss of Balance, Poor Coordination, Slurred Speech, Tremors, Extreme Fatigue, Problems with Memory, Bladder Dysfunction, Paralysis and Blindness
9. Though not previously mentioned, incontinence is also a debilitating symptom within multiple sclerosis. These troubles can sometimes lead to isolation – again watch out for depression.
10. Joining a “carersemergy card” program can be a great way to cope with a loved one suffering from MS. These medical schemes have trained professionals available to help in times of trouble. Should the condition become too much to take care of personally, a trained professional can be provided by the scheme to help care for the person diagnosed with the disease. These schemes are only available in selection locations. A call to local authorities can help you find out if there are any Carer Centers near you with these schemes.
11. Find support, for yourself and your loved one. Benefits of participating in a connection program include:
Learning new information and strategies for managing MS
Finding support from others
The opportunity to help others
New power and confidence in facing the challenges of living with MS (or assisting one that lives with it)
12. Take into consideration that MS happens to families (and friends), not just individuals. When a person is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, there is immediate impact on all surrounding said individual. Alongside the depressive issues that the patient may suffer with, family members and other loved ones may experience the same emotions as they adapt to the diagnosis – fear, guilt, anger, denial, grief, anxiety.
13. Don’t forget to take into account that someone suffering with MS may also be struggling financially. It is obvious that because of the complexity and unpredictability of this disease, it can have varying effects on a person’s ability to work. Of course, today’s disease modifying drugs, new technologies, better symptom management, legal employment protections and community resources can help the patient remain in the workforce… it is still an expensive disease to have.
Always, always listen to the doctor in cases such as this type of diagnosis, especially. There is a lot of research available on the internet and you can reference some of the sites listed below for a deeper knowledge of what professionals say about MS and how to cope with it.