multiple sclerosis

4 Types of Multiple Sclerosis (Plus Two You Didn’t Know About)

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune condition that impacts the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. It affects nearly one million people in the United States and more than 2.3 million people worldwide. MS is a progressive disease, meaning it can get worse over time without treatment. However, treatment can’t always slow the progression of the disease. There are four types of multiple sclerosis: clinically isolated syndrome, relapsing-remitting MS, primary progressive MS, and secondary progressive MS.   Common symptoms of MS that can occur at any stage include numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, loss of balance, and spasticity. Other symptoms that can occur with the condition include fatigue, cognitive changes, and weakness.   Multiple sclerosis is a complex and unpredictable disease. Because there is no way to know for certain how someone’s MS will progress, there is no set timeline for how long it will take to move from one stage to the next.   Clinically Isolated Syndrome   Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is one type of multiple sclerosis. With CIS, the first episode of neurologic symptoms lasts at least 24 hours. These include:  Numbness or tingling   Dizziness and shakiness  Muscle stiffness  Paralysis  Vision changes, such as double vision  Bladder or bowel dysfunction   CIS is caused by inflammation or demyelination, which is the loss of myelin. Myelin is a protective sheath of fatty tissue that protects the nerve cells, including those in the brain and spinal cord. Damage to the myelin sheath interrupts nerve signals from …

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Medications for Multiple Sclerosis

Although there is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis, there are several medications that can help improve the quality of life for MS patients. Medications can help ease symptoms, keep the disease from progressing, and reduce the frequency of a relapse. Medications for multiple sclerosis include pills, injections, or infusions. Finding the right medication to treat your MS may take time. It may also take time to see improvements. Once you have established a treatment plan with your healthcare providers, continue to follow it until your providers tell you to stop. Make sure you communicate any side effects you experience. Remember that each person’s body may respond to medication differently. Disease-modifying Drugs Disease-modifying drugs (DMDs) are a group of drugs that modify or influence the underlying disease course. They are also known as immunomodulatory drugs. DMDs target some aspect of the inflammatory process of MS. This reduces the frequency and severity of relapses. DMDs also help prevent new brain lesions. The FDA has approved 17 disease-modifying agents for MS as of 2019. DMDs cannot reverse or halt MS. But they can slow disease progression. This means less damage will accumulate over time, resulting in fewer relapses and symptoms. It is …

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6 Possible Causes of Multiple Sclerosis

If you’re living with multiple sclerosis, you probably have a lot of questions about your diagnosis. You might be wondering how you developed the disease and what your outlook is. While the course of the disease will vary from person to person, an exact cause has yet to be identified. Scientists have found that a combination of factors often causes multiple sclerosis.  What happens when you have MS?  Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells rather than protecting them. It is unclear why the immune system does this or what prevents it from being able to identify healthy cells versus invaders. Because the autoimmune response is unknown, there aren’t any absolute cures for autoimmune disorders.   When it comes to MS, the immune system attacks healthy cells in the myelin, the protective sheath that surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord. When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve signals from the brain to other parts of the body are interrupted. This damage can cause symptoms such as muscle spasms, stiffness, and weakness, or lack of coordination.  What are some of the causes of MS?  There are several factors that researchers believe can cause multiple sclerosis. Genetics  Genetics is one possible cause of multiple sclerosis. Although MS is not an …

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MS and Stress: Managing the Holidays

Stress is a normal part of life for many people. For some, holidays can be especially stressful because of gift buying, traveling, and making holiday dinners. If you have multiple sclerosis, the stress of the holidays can be compounded by managing your illness on top of everything else.  Living with MS is not only a physical hurdle, but the effort it takes to manage the illness can increase your stress levels. During the holidays, you might feel like you need to explain your condition and request certain accommodations for traveling, dinner parties, or other holiday events. This can get emotionally exhausting, and you might feel yourself getting anxious whenever you have to socialize. There is also the stress of adapting to new symptoms as the disease progresses and the unpredictable nature of MS.   Studies have shown that stressful life events are associated with a significant increase in the risk of MS exacerbations. The impact can last weeks or months after the onset of the stressor. For example, if you have MS and you lose your job or have concerns about paying hospital bills, you may notice that your flare-ups are more frequent or worse months after the event has passed.   Long-term or continuous …

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Unexpected Warning Signs of MS

Multiple sclerosis can be one of the most difficult conditions to diagnose because of the variety of symptoms it causes and the ways they present. Most people with MS experience their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40. Sometimes, symptoms can come on suddenly and go away just as quickly. Other times, symptoms will start minimally and progressively get worse. Because MS effects everyone differently, the early warning signs for one person may not be the same as they are for someone else.  Many people with MS experience common symptoms like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, or changes in gait. Other common symptoms of MS include fatigue, bladder problems, and “MS hug.” Although there are other warning signs to look out for, it’s important to recognize that having one or all of them doesn’t mean you have MS. If your body attacks your nervous system just once, and the symptoms last for at least 24 hours, but other conditions have been ruled, your doctor will likely diagnose you with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). While CIS can develop into multiple sclerosis, that isn’t always the case.  Here are some early warning signs of multiple sclerosis to look out for.   Tremor   Tremor is commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease, but some people with multiple sclerosis may experience tremors too. Both diseases affect the central nervous system, but they have different causes. MS is caused by damage to the myelin sheath that forms around nerve fibers, while Parkinson’s is caused by nerve damage to nerve cells in …

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Integrative Treatment for MS

Managing multiple sclerosis can be difficult, especially when it comes to choosing between different treatment options. You want a treatment plan that is going to help minimize your symptoms while being mindful of any side effects. All the while making sure that your mental health is being protected.  Many patients with MS use an integrative or complementary approach to manage their symptoms and reduce relapses. That’s because these approaches don’t just focus on the physical nature of MS, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual effects. The mind-body connection works both ways: although MS primarily affects the central nervous system, patients often experience mental and emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Similarly, studies have shown that having a positive outlook can improve MS recovery and health.   What is integrative medicine?  Integrative medicine includes a full spectrum of physical factors, as well as emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors that can influence someone’s health. It emphasizes a holistic, whole person view rather than a segmented one that only focuses on one aspect of managing a health condition. Integrative medicine uses appropriate, evidence-based therapeutic and lifestyle approaches to achieve optimal health and healing. It emphasizes the relationship between the patient and the healthcare provider(s) because this too can affect the healing process. …

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Conditions Commonly Mistaken for Multiple Sclerosis

Have you wondered why your vision got so blurry, or why you feel tired all the time? Maybe you’re having trouble remembering things, and your mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be. These symptoms can be scary, and it can be frustrating when there are no clear answers about what they may be. Your symptoms could be multiple sclerosis (MS), but they could be something else. One study found that nearly 1 in 5 people with other neurological conditions are mistakenly diagnosed with MS. Because there is no single diagnostic test to receive a definitive MS diagnosis and because symptoms often mimic other illnesses, it can take years to get a final diagnosis. What is multiple sclerosis? Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and spinal cord. With MS, the body’s immune system attacks the protective layer, called myelin, that forms around nerve fibers. When the myelin sheath is damaged or destroyed, it disrupts the flow of information from the brain to other parts of the body. The scarring left behind from inflammation to the myelin sheath is called sclerosis. There are four main types of …

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How to Ask for Help

Everyone needs it, but sometimes the hardest thing to do is to ask for help. Opening yourself up to feeling vulnerable, especially when you are already feeling compromised by your condition, can be challenging. It is important to remember; you do not have to shoulder it alone. Your chronic health condition may force your hand in making some adjustments to your everyday life, not only for you but those around you. Depending on where you are on your health journey, you may need to think about asking your loved ones for a bit more support. It can be hard to admit that your condition is taking away yet another piece of who you used to be, but reaching out for help is necessary for managing your stress and comfort levels. You don’t have to feel ashamed for needing a helping hand (or two!) The National Alliance on Mental Illness reminds us that there is no right or wrong way to ask for help, but if you are looking for some motivation for starting these kinds of conversations, try these tips our members have recommended: Be clear and specific about where you need help or support When you ask for help, …

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Chronic Kidney Disease Woman and Cat

Lessons Learned on a Seventeen Year Journey to Diagnosis

Meet Trisha (@DXMS06) Before Trisha Bordelon, a 69-year-old PatientsLikeMe (PLM) user from Springfield, Missouri, officially received any diagnosis, she was guilty of what many of us in her shoes would do – spend hours going down a rabbit hole of internet searches to try and figure out what was going on with her health. She had it in the back of her mind that her symptoms were aligning with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). However, even after seeing multiple doctors, her diagnosis was still unclear, and Trisha became more and more frustrated. One of the first symptoms she remembers was constantly losing her balance and bumping into the walls in her home. While her doctor was blaming this on the steroids she was taking, the symptoms continued even once she stopped taking the medication. It really never occurred to Trisha that something was really wrong with her until she experienced optic neuritis – twice. She was finally referred to a neurologist for scans. Still, she was frustrated she had no answers and was trying to figure out what was going on with her body. From what started with her first symptom in 1989, she experienced a double vision attack when driving to …

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MS constipation blues? See 12+ treatment options

Feeling “irregular” on the regular? Constipation is a common issue for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS), affecting as many as 40% of patients. Over 15,000 MS members on PatientsLikeMe report experiencing bowel problems and of those, about 47% have reported it as “moderate” or “severe” – take a look here. With help from our team of in-house health professionals, we took a closer look at this taboo topic, as well as available treatments. What’s going on with constipation? Typically, constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. But only you know what’s “regular” for you — constipation isn’t just about bowel movement frequency and averages. It can also mean going #2 less often than what’s normal for you – or having stools that are hard, dry or difficult to pass. Other symptoms that can come with constipation include incomplete evacuation of stool, abdominal bloating, cramping and straining. When constipation becomes chronic or interferes with your daily life, it may be time to seek treatment. What’s the constipation/MS connection? MS and some medications used to treat it may cause constipation. MS damages the nerve cells of the intestines and can slow down and impair the muscles that usually push food …

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