When you hear the term ‘chronic condition,’ you may think of heart disease, diabetes or arthritis, but there are many more conditions that are often overlooked until you or someone you know is diagnosed. One such disease, for example, is multiple sclerosis.
Although more than 400,000 people have MS in the United States alone, not much is known about it. To help eliminate some of the confusion surrounding this debilitating disease, we’ve answered the most frequently-asked questions about MS.
What is MS?
An unpredictable chronic condition, MS is an immune-mediated disorder, meaning that the immune system actually mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the central nervous system.
What causes multiple sclerosis?
Unfortunately, researchers are unsure what causes multiple sclerosis, but researchers believe that the following factors could play a role in what causes multiple sclerosis:
- Gender. Although MS affects both men and women, more than two to three times as many women develop MS, suggesting that hormones may impact its development.
- Genetic risk factors. First-, second- and third-degree relatives of those with MS have a much higher risk of developing it as well.
- Environmental factors. Low Vitamin D and cigarette smoking are just two examples of environmental factors that increase the risk of MS.
- Ethnicity. People of all ethnic groups can develop MS, but it is most common in Caucasians of northern European ancestry.
What are the early symptoms of MS?
Since the early symptoms of MS vary in each individual, diagnosing this disease can be difficult, but the most common early symptoms of MS include:
- Loss of balance
- Limb weakness
- Blurred vision
Some other less-common symptoms include slurred speech, paralysis, lack of coordination and problems in cognitive skills.
How can I stay safe while experiencing early symptoms of MS?
If you’re experiencing spasticity, muscle weakness and dizziness due to MS, you are at a much greater risk of falling and experiencing an emergency. Luckily, with the fall detection-equipped Active Guardian medical alert device, you can rest assured that you’ll still be able to receive help in an emergency — even if you are unable to press the button on the device yourself.
To ensure your safety even further, you should also make some simple yet strategic changes to your home, like removing clutter, improving accessibility and rearranging furniture.
Is there treatment for multiple sclerosis available?
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for MS, but there are certain medications and treatment options available. FDA-approved medications that help modify the course of the disease are actually quite effective in reducing inflammation in the central nervous system, reducing the frequency and severity of MS attacks and may even slow the progression of disability.
In addition to medication, physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive rehabilitation and even speech-language pathology are all treatment options designed to help you manage your MS symptoms. Speak with an MS care provider to develop a treatment plan catered to your specific symptoms.
Is MS fatal?
No, MS is not fatal, but one-third of people with MS do become severely disabled. Those who do not become disabled may need to use an aid, like a cane or wheelchair, due to a loss of balance, fatigue and muscle weakness. The treatment options outlined above, specifically physical therapy, will play a key role in preventing disability and mobility limitations.
What can I do to help raise awareness of MS?
Now that you know more about MS, there are plenty of things you can do to raise awareness of this chronic condition, like:
- Volunteer. Use your time and skills to help others receive treatment for multiple sclerosis.
- Advocate. Raise awareness to help make MS a national priority.
- Donate. This is the best way to ensure that a cure for MS is discovered -- even small donations make a difference.
- Support events. Many communities organize events that directly benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, like the Preakness at the Piazza event in Philadelphia, PA. This fashion event combines sports and fundraising, with 100% of the profits supporting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Be sure to check it out if you’re in the Greater Philadelphia area, or look in your own community for events that support finding a cure for MS.