What To Know About Multiple Sclerosis

Types

Stages of MS

There are three main types of MS. They vary in their symptoms, disease course, and how they are treated.

Relapsing-remitting MS: About 85 to 90 percent of people with MS are first diagnosed with this form. During relapses, you’ll experience neurological symptoms and functionality will decline. During remissions, symptoms may disappear or just become milder. Remission may last weeks or months.

Secondary-progressive MS: Some people with relapsing-remitting MS eventually develop secondary-progressive MS. It has a more progressive disease course in which symptoms become chronic and irreversible.

Primary-progressive MS: Symptoms slowly, but steadily get worse over time. Relapses don’t occur, and the rate of worsening varies greatly. This is a less common type, accounting for about ten percent of cases. It tends to affect the spinal cord more than the brain.

The less common types (or secondary) MS are Benign and Malignant or Fulminant MS.

Symptoms

In the central nervous system of a healthy person, nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord rapidly send signals to each other and to the rest of the body. But in a person with MS, this signaling is impaired due to damage to the myelin. Nerve impulses are either slow or not transmitted at all, and that causes a vast array of symptoms.

Which MS symptoms each person with MS experiences is unique to them, but some are more common than others because the disease tends to affect certain locations within the central nervous system.

Fatigue

Tiredness and Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS, occurring in about 80 percent of people. It can significantly interfere with a person’s ability to function at home and work, and is one of the primary causes of early departure from the workforce. Fatigue may be the most prominent symptom in a person who otherwise has minimal activity limitations.

The cause of MS fatigue is currently unknown. Ongoing studies seek an objective test that can be used as a marker for fatigue, and for precise ways to measure it. Some people with MS say that family members, friends, co-workers or employers sometimes misinterpret their fatigue and think they are depressed or just not trying hard enough.

 

 

 

 

 

Other common symptoms of MS include:

  • Abnormal sensations (e.g.., numbness and tingling, itching, tightness, burning)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain
  • Spasticity
  • Cognitive problems
  • Depression
MS symptoms depend on the location and severity of the damage. Some people are inconvenienced by them, while others become seriously disabled.

In people who experience remission, symptoms might go away entirely. In others, they may become milder. Some people, however, have no periods of improvement.

 

Diagnosis

Diagnosing MS can be difficult at times, and it’s especially hard to confirm it based on symptoms alone given that they can come and go and be rather nebulous. A medical history, physical examination, tests such as blood tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of your brain and/or spinal cord are usually needed to determine if you do, in fact, have MS.

Since a lot of MS symptoms are common in other conditions, doctors need to rule them out during the diagnostic process. For instance, nerve pain, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction are common in fibromyalgia and systemic lupus erythematosus. Numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness can stem from a vitamin B12 deficiency or herniated disc.
Before their diagnosis, it’s fairly common for people with MS to say they first attributed their symptoms to a passing illness, like the flu. Doctors, too, sometimes miss MS because the symptoms are so subtle and transient. Some people go years without a diagnosis.

If you’re having new symptoms that could point to MS, see your doctor. He or she will likely refer you to a neurologist if the disease is suspected.

Treatment

You’ve got a lot of treatment options for combatting MS. Disease-Modifying-Drugs (DMD) include:

  • Injectable drugs such as Avonex, Betaseron, Rebif, and Plegridy
  • Pills such as Gilenya (fingolimod), Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate), and Aubagio (teriflunomide), Mayzent® (Siponimod)
  • Infusions such as Lemtrada (alemtuzumab), Novantrone (mitoxantrone), Tysabri (natalizumab), and Ocrevus (ocrelizumab)

Most of them are for relapsing types of the disease, but evolving research on treatments for progressive MS are improving that picture. Ocrevus is the first FDA-approved treatment for both relapsing and primary-progressive MS.

An area getting a lot of attention is dietary changes, like eating a clean, plant-based diet is best, cleaning up the gut microbiome.
You also have a wide range of complementary therapies and management options. Working with a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach specializing in working with those afflicted with MS will help you to manage your MS symptoms naturally.  You can also include physical or occupational therapy, assistive mobility devices, yoga, and reflexology. You may need to explore a number of treatment regimens before finding what works best for you.

Coping

Being diagnosed with any chronic condition is scary. You’ve probably been forced to make changes to your life and to accept the impact of MS on your body and your quality of life.

While adjustments are necessary, you can live well with this illness. Several approaches can help:
  • Learn all you can: Knowledge is power, and it can give you some control over the unpredictable nature of this condition.
  • Prepare for doctor’s visits: It’s a good idea to devise a list of questions prior to your appointment and/or bring someone along with you, so you’re sure to get the answers that you need.
  • Commit to treatment: It’s important for your peace of mind and MS care to establish an open, trusting relationship with your healthcare team. Ask them about proper ways to communicate and what constitutes an emergency. Stick to your medications, and wellness plan with your Wellness Coach. Communicate all concerns, like negative side effects, to your team of professionals.
  • Consider changes: Healthy lifestyle habits like stress management, a healthy diet, regular exercise (that especially encourages balance and flexibility), connecting mind+body+spirit, smoking cessation, and sleep hygiene are beneficial with MS and for good overall health.
  • Give your brain a workout: Research suggests that brain training can improve your mental function with MS. Reading, playing games, doing puzzles, or actively trying to learn new skills can help keep your brain sharp.

Fatigue & Lassitude

People with MS can experience fatigue that is unrelated to having MS. Other medical conditions and vitamin deficiencies, for example, can cause fatigue. It is important to ensure that your fatigue is a result of your MS and not something else that has a different treatment. Working with your Certified Health & Wellness Coach will guide you to what (if any) supplements you should add to your regime.

Several different kinds of fatigue occur in people with MS. For example, people who have bladder dysfunction (producing night-time awakenings) or nocturnal muscle spasms, may be sleep deprived and experience fatigue as a result. People who are depressed may also have fatigue. Anyone who needs to expend considerable effort just to accomplish daily tasks (e.g., dressing, brushing teeth, bathing, preparing meals) may also experience additional fatigue as a result.

In addition to these sources of fatigue, there is another kind of fatigue — referred to as lassitude — that is unique to people with MS. Lassitude or “MS fatigue” is different from other types of fatigue in that it:

  • Generally occurs on a daily basis
  • May occur early in the morning, even after a restful night’s sleep
  • Tends to worsen as the day progresses
  • Tends to be aggravated by heat and humidity
  • Comes on easily and suddenly
  • Is generally more severe than normal fatigue
  • Is more likely to interfere with daily responsibilities

MS-related fatigue does not appear to be directly correlated with either depression or the degree of physical impairment.

Managing Fatigue

Fatigue can also be caused by  medical side effects of medications or from inactivity. Persons with MS should consult their healthcare provider if fatigue becomes a problem. Early identification of the cause of fatigue can lead to an effective treatment plan. Your  wellness coach can complete a comprehensive evaluation to identify the root cause of  your fatigue and work with you to develop a wellness plan specific to your needs. Some strategies to manage fatigue include:

  • I as a Certified Health & Wellness Coach am trained to get to the root cause of your symptoms. I highly recommend working with me.  I put together The MS Energy Blueprint to combat fatigue, increase your energy levels and improve your overall health, naturally.
  • Occupational therapy to simplify tasks at work and home and conserve energy use.
  • Physical therapy to learn energy-saving ways of walking (with or without assistive devices) and performing other daily tasks.
  • Physical therapy to develop a regular exercise program to prevent deconditioning.
  • Sleep regulation, which includes techniques to achieve a restful nights sleep.
  • Learning techniques  such as stress management, relaxation training, and membership in my private MS support group, only for my clients.
  • Heat management strategies to avoid overheating and to cool down.

A note from YOU Wellness

I welcome you to take the next step in taking back control of your health, by scheduling your complimentary Healing Strategy Session. This will allow me to find out your challenges and how I can empower you with the right tools, tips and resources to improve your overall health & well-being.

In Health & Wellness

Jen Martin | The MS Wellness Coach

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