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 is important to face your diagnosis head-on and learn as much as you can about the disease and symptoms. The unknown can be scary, so having an idea of what symptoms you may experience can help you 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
Attacks or relapses of symptoms are to be expected. Approximately 85 percent of people are diagnosed with relapse-remitting MS (RRMS), which is characterized by attacks with full or partial recovery. About 15 percent don’t have attacks, but rather slow progression of the disease. This is called primary-progressive MS.
Medications can help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks while other drugs and therapies can help alleviate symptoms. Treatment can also help change the course of your disease and slow progression.
Treatment: The Importance of a Plan
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, which often involves using corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and limit damage to the central nervous system
- Symptom management using different medications and therapies
- Rehabilitation programs so you can maintain your independence and continue your activities at home and work in a way that’s safe and appropriate to your changing needs
- 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 new life.
Keeping track of your disease by writing down appointments and medications, along with 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.
The Impact on Your Life at Home and Work
Though the symptoms of MS can be burdensome, it’s important to know 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 and avoid isolating yourself from others or ceasing to do the things you enjoy.
Being active can play a big role in the management of MS. It can help lessen 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.