Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease that affects each person differently. Adjusting to your new and ever-changing situation may be easier if you have an idea of what to expect.
It’s important to face your diagnosis head-on and learn as much as you can about the disease and the symptoms. The unknown can be scary, so having an idea of what symptoms you may experience can help you to be better prepared for them.
Not everyone will have the same symptoms, but some symptoms are more common than others, including:
- numbness or weakness, usually affecting one side of your body at a time
- pain when moving your eyes
- loss or disturbance of vision, usually in one eye at a time
- balance problems
- dizziness or vertigo
- bladder and bowel issues
Medications can help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Other drugs and therapies can help alleviate symptoms. Treatment can also help change the course of your disease and slow its progression.
Being diagnosed with MS may have been out of your control, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be in control of your treatment. Having a plan in place helps you manage your disease and alleviate the feeling that the disease is dictating your life.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends taking a comprehensive approach. This means:
- modifying the disease course by taking FDA-approved medications to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks
- treating attacks (this often involves using corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and limit damage to the central nervous system)
- managing symptoms using different medications and therapies
- taking part in rehabilitation programs so that you can maintain your independence and continue your activities at home and work in a way that’s both safe and appropriate to your changing needs
- seeking professional emotional support to help you cope with your new diagnosis and any emotional changes you may experience, like anxiety or depression
Work with your doctor to come up with a plan. This plan should include referrals to specialists who can help you with all aspects of the disease and available treatments. Having confidence in your healthcare team can have a positive impact on the way you deal with your changing life.
Keeping track of your disease — by writing down appointments and medications as well as keeping a journal of your symptoms — can also be helpful for you and your doctors.
This is also a great way to keep track of your concerns and questions so that you’re better prepared for your appointments.
Though the symptoms of MS can be burdensome, it’s important to note that many people with MS continue to live active and productive lives.
Depending on your symptoms, you may need to make some adjustments to the way you go about your daily activities. Ideally, you want to continue to live your life as normally as possible. So, avoid isolating yourself from others or stop doing the things you enjoy.
Being active can play a big role in the management of MS. It can help reduce your symptoms and help you keep a positive outlook.
A physical and/or occupational therapist can give you suggestions on how to adapt your activities at home and work to suit your needs.
Being able to continue to do the things you love in a way that is safe and comfortable can make it much easier for you to adjust to your new normal.