Sometimes, when you least expect it, it can feel as though your body is rebelling against you. Your balance seems off, you aren’t seeing as well as you once did, and your body just isn’t working the way you want it to. If these symptoms sound familiar, you aren’t imagining things. You might be feeling symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Not everybody experiences multiple sclerosis in the same way — the symptoms could be mild for some people and knock others off their feet. For many patients, a multiple sclerosis diagnosis can be life-altering. Here are some things you should know about this condition:
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a condition affecting almost 1 million Americans in which the myelin sheath around nerves becomes damaged. It is an autoimmune disease, which means the damage is caused by the body attacking itself. When these nerves are damaged, people can experience fatigue, muscle weakness, tingling, numbness and other nerve issues. It can even cause muscle spasms and paralysis.
Who is at risk?
The cause of multiple sclerosis has not been determined, so identifying who has a higher chance of developing the condition is difficult. However, there are some groups of people that may have a higher risk. Women appear to be more likely than men to get multiple sclerosis, and it usually shows up between ages 20 and 40.
Can multiple sclerosis be prevented?
Since experts don’t know what causes multiple sclerosis, a way to prevent it also hasn’t been found. However, if you have multiple sclerosis, there are some ways you can prevent flare-ups. Taking your medications and staying healthy can help. Getting enough rest is also important, as is quitting smoking.
Treatment for multiple sclerosis involves treating attacks and symptoms and reducing future attacks. Steroids can help with attacks, and physical therapy can improve symptoms. Disease-modifying therapy has been effective in reducing future attacks. Some drugs can also slow the progression of the disease.
“Multiple sclerosis can often be physically debilitating, and it can also be mentally draining to live with symptoms that aren’t obvious to the people around you,” says Deanna Hill, administrator at English Oaks Convalescent and Rehabilitation. “When you talk with your doctor about treatment options, be sure to address all your symptoms — including mental and emotional needs.”
Living with multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis can alter your physical abilities, impairing balance and causing trouble with balance and vision. It may be necessary to make changes to your environment to adapt to your body’s altered abilities. Give yourself extra room to move around, and make it easier to reach objects if you use a wheelchair. Install handrails and other balance aids if necessary, and reduce tripping hazards.
Whether the effects of multiple sclerosis are minor or disabling, it can have a major impact on your life. Getting treatment for multiple sclerosis can reduce the number of attacks and may prevent long-term damage, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms.