What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease affecting the brain and spinal cord, meaning instead of the immune system in your body attacking bacteria and viruses, it attacks the body’s own tissue in the brain and spinal cord.
While about 2.5 million people in the United States have MS, there is no known cause or cure for the disease.
The disease is not fatal, but it is chronic for the lifetime of the person diagnosed. There are four different types of the disease that are characterized by the flare-up, or recurrence, of symptoms.
Typically, a neurologist will diagnose the disease through the use of a neurological exam, an MRI, an eye exam, and a spinal tap. These procedures will evaluate and identify damage to the central nervous system.
Those diagnosed are usually between 20-40 years old and are more likely to be female in a 2:1 ratio.
About 45% of those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis are not severely affected by the disease, but signs and symptoms vary by the individual and can range from mild to very alarming.
What is the Progression of Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis progresses differently for everyone, but there are four types that have been identified. These types help give those diagnosed an idea of what to expect for their future with MS. All types feature relapses which signal that the nerves in the brain and spinal cord get inflamed (swollen or irritated) and then lose their myelin (the coating that protects them). In the myelin’s place, plague forms instead. This then causes either a worsening of current symptoms, an addition of new symptoms, or both. The various types are listed below.
Types of MS:
- This type includes symptoms getting worse, and the diagnosed person experiencing full, partial, or no recovery. These flare-ups usually last several days or weeks and recovery could take weeks or months. When someone is first diagnosed, doctors usually diagnose him or her with this type of MS.
- This type includes symptoms always being present. Symptoms will gradually get worse without any relapse. This diagnosis typically effects those diagnosed at or over 40 years old.
- This type includes symptoms becoming steadily worse over time. Symptoms no longer come and go, instead, they remain present. This diagnosis could last years or decades. Typically, people who have this type started as a relapsing-remitting MS diagnosis.
- This type is the least common and includes symptoms steadily worsening. Those diagnosed with this will have flare-ups that may or may not be followed by recovery.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
As mentioned above, the signs and symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis vary by the individual. Those diagnosed experience different symptoms at different times for variable lengths of time.
However, there are a handful of early symptoms that typically lead to an MS diagnosis. Those symptoms include:
- Balance loss
- Weakness in one or more limbs
- Blurred or double vision
- Slurred speech
- Temporary paralysis
- Lack of coordination
- Sexual dysfunction
- Problems processing information
As MS progresses, many people will begin to experience increases in severity to the early symptoms and the addition of new symptoms which include:
- Heat sensitivity
- Changes in thinking
- Vision loss
- Excessive urination
- Muscle spasms
- Tremors in hands or limbs
- Pain in back or eyes due to movement
How do I manage Multiple Sclerosis?
There is no cure for MS, however, there are ways to help slow down the progression of MS and manage the symptoms.
- Doctors can and will prescribe medication to help manage symptoms like anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive medication. Doctors can also prescribe steroid drugs to help slow the progression.
- Staying healthy is a big way to fight off flare-ups of MS. You should:
- stay hydrated
- wash hands
- avoid sick people
- get flu shots
- take medication as prescribed
- quit smoking
- Physical therapy, rehab, and speech therapy are all ways to help manage symptoms and aid you in living daily life without as much interference.
- Stress can cause flare-ups in MS, so ensuring you are as stress-free as possible will help. Use relaxation techniques to ease stress, like:
- breathing exercises
Does your senior loved one need help with activities of daily living and home care?
Needing help around the home for daily activities is an area seniors may become concerned with, especially if MS symptoms are making daily living difficult.
Home care is a solution to this concern, and Caregogi is an online matching service that can help seniors find a caregiver that meet their home care needs. Visit https://www.caregogi.com/ to find a caregiver that is right for the senior in your life.