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Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis

A physician should be notified if you or someone you know have any of the signs and symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. Also check with a doctor if you or someone you know have any signs or symptoms that may not be associated but that are of concern. The person may not have multiple sclerosis, but because of the nonspecific nature of this disease, it is best to let a qualified professional make that determination.

Several of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis may send the patient to a hospital's emergency department.

  • If visual changes and painful eye movements are experienced, visit the nearest emergency department. The patient could have optic neuritis, one of the most common early signs of multiple sclerosis.
  • If the patient experiences personality changes or sudden loss of strength in the arms and legs they should go to the emergency department for evaluation. These symptoms are common with multiple sclerosis, but they can also be signs of other serious diseases, such as stroke, infection, or chemical imbalances.
Self Care at Home

exercise and Diet

Multiple sclerosis affects people differently, and how it affects an individual cannot be predicted. However, improvement of the aspects of health that we have some control over often improves quality of life.

Physical fitness and diet are two aspects of our lives over which we have some control. Studies have shown that for people with multiple sclerosis, regular aerobic exercise (exercise that raises the pulse and respiration rate) and a healthy diet have many benefits, including the following:

  • Increased or at least maintained muscle strength
  • Decreased fatigue (tiredness)
  • Increased energy levels
  • Increased endurance
  • Increased bladder and bowel control
  • Reduced feelings of depression
  • Protected bone mass

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A doctor or healthcare provider may refer a person with multiple sclerosis to a nutritionist or physical therapist to help determine an appropriate diet and exercise plan for that person.

Alternative Therapy

  • Some people with multiple sclerosis look into alternative forms of therapy, including many who are already on medications. Because most people who have multiple sclerosis should be using prescription medication under the supervision of their doctor, alternative therapies  are usually used as complementary therapies, meaning that these therapies complement the traditional therapy.

Vitamin supplements

Although no definitive studies exist showing that vitamin supplements help multiple sclerosis, their use is not contraindicated unless they are taken in excess. Before taking any vitamin supplement, however, be sure to check with the doctor. Certain supplements are not recommended for people with multiple sclerosis. For example, a supplement that is supposed to boost immune function may be dangerous for people with multiple sclerosis because an overactive immune system  is likely the cause of symptoms in multiple sclerosis. A brief overview of some supplements that may, in theory, be beneficial in multiple sclerosis follows:

  • Vitamin D: It has been questioned if multiple sclerosis is more prevalent in the most northern latitudes because of decreased exposure to sunlight, which is necessary for the body's production of vitamin D. This vitamin may help maintain bone density. Some people with multiple sclerosis have low bone density as a side effect of corticosteroid treatment and are at an increased risk for osteoporosis; vitamin D helps strengthen bones.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E could, in theory, help decrease the damage caused by substances called oxidants that may be involved in the multiple sclerosis disease process.
  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A is necessary for vision, and people with multiple sclerosis often experience visual problems. Intake of vitamin A likely helps people with multiple sclerosis that also have a vitamin A deficiency.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C can reduce the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Because people with multiple sclerosis who also have bladder problems tend to have an increased risk of UTIs, vitamin C may be beneficial.
  • Ginkgo biloba: This herb claims to boost memory, but it may also cause clotting problems. Ginkgo biloba should be used in caution or not at all if the person with multiple sclerosis is also taking aspirin-containing drugs or other blood thinners.
  • Vitamin B-12: Vitamin B-12 is required for the proper function of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells. People with B-12 deficiency may have signs and symptoms that may resemble multiple sclerosis. For people with multiple sclerosis who do not have a low B-12 level, no strong evidence exists that shows taking vitamin B-12 supplements is beneficial.

Acupuncture

Rehabilitation

Multiple sclerosis rehabilitation helps to increase function, improving physical skills and thereby quality of life. Rehabilitation usually focuses on problems with walking and balance, using aids such as a cane or wheelchair, dressing and other personal care, and performing everyday tasks. There are two types of rehabilitation:

  • Restorative rehabilitation seeks to restore lost function. This type of rehabilitation is especially helpful after an multiple sclerosis relapse (attack of symptoms). For people with severe disabilities, rehabilitation tries to make the most of the strengths and abilities that are still there.
  • Maintenance, or preventive, rehabilitation seeks to preserve current function even as multiple sclerosis gets worse. For people who have been recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, rehabilitation can establish knowledge and patterns that will be in place in case problems arise later.

For friends and family, a rehabilitation program can teach these persons how to adapt to changes, alter home and work environments for ease of mobility and tasks, and show how they can help others give assistance to their loved ones.

Every person with multiple sclerosis is unique, and a rehabilitation program is best when designed for each particular person. A doctor, neurologist, or other healthcare provider can recommend a rehabilitation therapist.

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Managing stress  and Emotions

Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, as with any chronic illness, is difficult. You may experience the following emotions, which may vary at different points of the disease:

  • Fear: Fear of disability, pain, the unknown, and losing control
  • Denial: Thoughts of "this can't be happening" or "it's not possible"
  • Grief: Grief over what you think you may lose and how that loss may affect your life
  • Depression: Loss of interest in what you used to enjoy, depression is present in about half of people with multiple sclerosis
  • Guilt: Feelings of guilt because of the inability to perform usual tasks and do all that you were once able to do Multiple sclerosis has aspects that are particularly stressful:
  • Unpredictability of the disease: Multiple sclerosis is challenging to diagnose because of the variability of symptoms and the absence of a conclusive blood test that can establish the diagnosis. Then, once multiple sclerosis is diagnosed, no doctor can predict its course. Doctors will likely know statistics of the disease and give general predictions, but cannot predict with certainty in an individual case whether symptoms will get better or worse, change in nature, or reappear in other parts of the body.
  • Invisible symptoms: Some symptoms of multiple sclerosis, such as mild weakness and fatigue, are invisible. You can have these symptoms, and others would not know that you are experiencing them.
  • Mental ability: Almost half of people with multiple sclerosis have changes in their mental function. They may have trouble remembering things, processing information quickly, or solving problems that involve sequential tasks.
  • Mood swings: Almost all people with multiple sclerosis occasionally experience mood swings, periods in which emotions, such as crying or laughter, are exaggerated or reappear with little notice.
  • Managing your emotions and the extra stress brought on by multiple sclerosis may mean making a few adjustments in your life, but stress can be managed.
  • Understand that you may not be able to do all the things you once did, or at least not as well. Perhaps it is possible to find new activities that are more feasible for you. In the early stages, however, it is possible for many multiple sclerosis patients to lead a normal life.
  • Maintain your relationship with loved ones. It may be hard for your loved ones to talk with you about the disease, but opening up with them and staying close to them will help both you and them to adjust to the changes multiple sclerosis brings. When you need their support, being specific about what you need will help them to assist you.
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  • If you cannot talk with loved ones about some things, find someone you trust and can talk with. This may be a counselor, a spiritual advisor, or someone else with multiple sclerosis.
  • Keep healthy. exercise and diet benefit your mental health as they do your physical health.
  • Find a doctor you are comfortable with. This should be someone who knows about multiple sclerosis and who is able to encourage and educate you. Also, follow your doctor's suggestions about diet, medications, and activities.
  • Relax. Meditation, yoga, massage, and other relaxation techniques can help reduce the tension you face every day. Simplify your life by cutting out activities you really do not need to do.
  • Participate in fun activities. Social activities can reduce stress by making you laugh and by helping you "let off steam." If you enjoy yourself, you are likely to feel better about yourself and more in charge of your life.
  • Help yourself. Carry a notebook to remind yourself of meetings and other things you need to do or go to. Feel free to say no to someone if you are feeling too tired or weak to do something. Try out a walking aid if you think that may help. Take several naps during the day if you are experiencing extreme fatigue.

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