Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating condition that many people do not understand. However, if you have been diagnosed with MS or you know someone who has, it is vital to be aware of what this disability is and how it will progress. This condition is not caused by heredity, which is a common myth. To begin understanding multiple sclerosis, you must understand what it actually is.
What Is MS?
Multiple sclerosis is an illness that affects the central nervous system specifically. If you know a little about your nerves, you know that they work by sending signals throughout your body in the form of electrical pulses. These messages tell your body what to do. Each of the nerves has a fatty tissue wrapping that insulates them, similar to electrical wiring coming to your home. When a person has MS, the fatty covering breaks down, becomes damaged, and forms hard scar tissue. When this happens, the nerves cannot send proper signals. Often, the electrical signals are incomplete, confused, or completely blocked.
Because multiple sclerosis affects all of the nerve signals throughout the body, symptoms can vary immensely from one person to the next. Some of the symptoms that people experience include:
- Sight trouble
- Trouble speaking
- Weakness in extremities
- Spastic muscles in extremities
- Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
- Memory loss and other mental issues
- Extreme fatigue despite getting enough sleep
Controlling Multiple Sclerosis
While there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, its effects on the body and its symptoms can be slowed down and even controlled to some extent. A physician may specifically prescribe certain medications in order to help fight the disease, and patients will also need to avoid certain things, such as:
- Excessive exercise
- Excessive heat
- Excessive stress
- Poor diet
A person with MS is encouraged to exercise regularly, but that routine must be moderated since extensive and strenuous workouts can actually aggravate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Additionally, a healthy weight should be maintained. If the patient is overweight or obese, they could have more trouble overcoming the common symptoms of the disease.
Foods that help to boost the immune system can also be beneficial. For example, a patient with multiple sclerosis should choose healthy foods that include high levels of vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids.
How MS Affects Lifestyle
The symptoms of the disease will affect lifestyle to varying levels. Depending on the severity of the condition, a patient could be limited in what they can do, including the following lifestyle issues:
- Mobility can be an issue since patients may not be able to walk properly or drive a vehicle.
- A patient suffering from chronic fatigue may have days when they can’t even get out of bed.
- Patients may have trouble speaking or communicating, which can affect their ability to work.
- Patients may not be able to live on their own since they could have trouble swallowing and can even choke.
- Sight impairments can also make it very hard for a patient to drive or leave their home.
When a person you know has multiple sclerosis, keep in mind that they do have a disability. Their lifestyle will change, and even though dietary choices and medication can slow down the illness, they will not stop it. MS will continue to get worse, and the person may continue to need assistance in their daily lives. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has some great resources available, including a fine collection of informational videos.
Share Your Experience
Have MS, or know someone who does? Team JJ’s List is a firm believer in self-advocacy and building independent living skills. We want to hear your positive stories. Share tips and resources with other families touched by MS by leaving a comment below.
About the Author
Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.
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