Multiple Sclerosis & You
Whether you have just received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) or have been living with this disease for some time, you already understand that it is a life-changing illness. Learning about how the disease progresses and how it may impact your activities of daily life are important parts of discovering how to adapt your lifestyle to successfully live with MS. While modern medicine doesn’t yet fully understand the causal factors behind the development of this disease, many interventions have been developed to help MS patients live a fulfilling and happy life.
Quick Facts About Multiple Sclerosis
MS is a neurological disease that attacks the protective fatty shield, called the myelin sheath, that surrounds nerves in the central nervous system (CNS). The myelin sheath and the nerves themselves become damaged and scarred over time, resulting in impaired function that produces a wide array of symptoms with varying degrees of severity. Here are some basic MS facts to consider:
- MS is chronic and incurable
- Most people with MS can expect to live an average lifespan
- There are no typical symptoms or disease presentation, so diagnosis can be protracted and difficult
- MS can go into remission, but most patients experience flareups or periods of relapse
Living a Happy, Healthy & Active Life with Multiple Sclerosis
A chronic condition like MS requires that you change some aspects of your lifestyle in order to stay healthy and avoid a severe period of relapse and its related symptoms. Here are some tips that can help you to adapt to living with MS.
Get Help – The symptoms of MS can be far-reaching and varied in between patients, so it is important that you ask for help in coping with your disease. The unpredictability of a flareup can cause depression and anxiety, while the cognitive dysfunctions that are associated with MS also present many challenges. Some possible sources of help and support can include:
- Professional counseling or therapy
- Support groups
- Keeping a diary
- Confiding in a close friend or family member
It’s important not to isolate yourself even when you’re having a flareup. Social, familial and professional connections provide important sources of support and assistance.
Eating Right & Staying Active – There is thought to be a strong correlation between the immune system and MS. Taking care of yourself properly by eating healthful diet and getting adequate physical activity is imperative to supporting the proper functioning of the immune system. In particular, there have been recent findings that have indicated that certain vitamin deficiencies, such as vitamin D, may place people at a higher risk of developing MS. In people diagnosed with MS, vitamin D intake has been associated with decreased incidences of relapse and flareups. Eating a balanced diet and getting 20-30 minutes of gentle physical activity daily, such as walking or water aerobics, will help to maintain overall health.
Avoiding Heat – People with MS are highly sensitive to heat or sun exposure, which is often associated with relapse and severe symptom flareups. Heat intolerance can be caused by:
- Hot weather
- Sun exposure
- Physical over-exertion
- Hot showers or baths
A healthful MS lifestyle aims to reduce excessive heat exposure and taking measures to stay cool, such as keeping cool beverages handy, dressing in light-weight layers and using fans or air conditioning.