Getting answers

If you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), chances are you have a lot of questions. Remembering what you wanted to ask, or even knowing the right questions to ask, can be difficult when you’re trying to come to terms with your diagnosis. Getting answers and learning about your condition can help you cope with your new situation.

The following are some of the most common questions asked by those newly diagnosed with MS.

What Is MS?

MS is a chronic neurological disorder affecting the central nervous system. For those with MS, the immune system attacks the protective tissue covering the nerves, leading to neurological symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:

  • vision changes/loss
  • balance issues
  • numbness and tingling
  • fatigue
  • muscle spasms
  • tremors
  • bladder issues
  • sexual dysfunction

Is There a Cure?

While there’s currently no cure for MS, advances in treatments can help you manage symptoms and limit the frequency and severity of attacks.

What Are My Treatment Options?

Treatment often begins with one of the many FDA-approved drugs. These drugs can reduce the number and severity of MS attacks and slow the progression of the disease. Along with these medications, there are other drugs and therapies that can help you manage the symptoms of MS, including fatigue, muscle spasms, and pain.

Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, exercising, and eating a healthy diet, can also improve physical and emotional symptoms and lower your risk of secondary disease. Leading a healthy lifestyle can improve your quality of life and life expectancy.

Will I Be Paralyzed?

It’s a common misconception that MS causes paralysis. Most people with MS don’t become severely disabled. Two-thirds of those with MS remain able to walk, though many eventually use assistance like a cane or crutches to help with balance issues and fatigue.

Is MS Fatal?

MS itself isn’t fatal and the average life expectancy for those with MS is only slightly lower than that of the general population. Smoking, diet, physical activity, and overall health can affect life expectancy. These same factors can also affect the life expectancy of someone without MS.

Why Did This Happen to Me?

Being diagnosed with MS can leave you wondering if something you did somehow caused the condition. There’s nothing that you could have done to prevent it.

The exact cause of the disease is still unknown. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide, and the average person in the United States has a 0.1 percent risk of developing MS. The risk increases to 2.5–5 percent if you have a first degree relative (a parent or sibling) with MS and increases more if there are multiple family members with MS.

How Will My Disease Progress?

MS is an unpredictable disease. Several factors make the course of the disease hard to predict, such as the different types of MS, lifestyle, and overall health.

Learning to deal with the unpredictability of the disease is important and something that your doctor or healthcare team can help you with.

Do I Have to Stop Working?

Thanks to advances in treatments, most people with MS can continue to work. This, of course, depends on the severity of your symptoms and the type of work you do.

An occupational therapist can help you make any modifications needed at work or at home to accommodate your changing symptoms and needs.

Will I Be Able to Stay Active?

Many worry that their MS diagnosis means that they’ll have to stop doing the things they enjoy and cause them to lead a sedentary life. But that’s typically not the case, and staying active with MS is oftentimes encouraged.  

Studies have found that exercise can improve MS symptoms, including fatigue and spasticity, and help patients retain a positive outlook. Exercise builds strength and lowers stress levels.

While your disease may require you to make some adjustments, you should be able to continue to live an active life. A physical therapist can offer suggestions to help keep you active.