The first question that comes to mind when one is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) is, "Can I live a normal life with multiple sclerosis?" Multiple sclerosis or MS is a disease of the central nervous system. For people who have multiple sclerosis, the myelin sheath that covers their nerve fibers becomes inflamed and is slowly destroyed, which leaves patches of scar tissue that disrupt the electric impulses between the brain and other parts of the body. There is currently no known cure for multiple sclerosis, and this could be one of the reasons why so many patients are afraid of the disease as they have to spend a lifetime with it.
A diagnosis of MS will mean a death sentence for many people. However, this should not be the case. Multiple sclerosis affects the quality of one's life rather than its longevity. A person can live a long and happy life with the disease. There are about more than 2.3 million people in the world who are affected by multiple sclerosis according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, making it a rare disease. Therefore, when one is diagnosed with MS, it can be terrifying because one may feel alone and may not be able to cope with the situation, as there will be no one to share the experience with. Even doctors may not have dealt with so many cases of the disease as to know how to treat it when it first occurs.
Statistics show that people with multiple sclerosis have a life expectancy of six years shorter than normal healthy persons. However, this should not be a reason anyone to be scared. Many individuals can manage the symptoms and effects of the disease and tend to live an almost normal life. Some may lose their ability to walk, so they are forced to use assistive devices such as crutches, canes, scooters, or wheelchairs to aid them in walking long distances. Nevertheless, they will still get to do the normal things that normal healthy people do.
Among those people who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, there are those who have higher chances of a long and better life. They include women or girls diagnosed with the disease, those who have infrequent attacks after their diagnosis, and people who show fewer signs of the disease after diagnosis.
As soon as patients are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, 20 percent of them usually show no symptoms at all, while another 20 percent will progressively show their condition. Thus, unless a patient is at the age of 40 by the time the disease is diagnosed, there is not much to worry about. Other critical patients include those whose symptoms affect their mental functioning, motor nerves, or urinary functioning.
There are individuals who have longer gaps between the attacks and these people are likely to live very happily despite having to worry about the recurrence of the disease. There will also be those people who have very few symptoms of the attack and tend to completely recover from their attacks when they do occur. Doctors are also usually more positive about patients whose neurological exams appear normal five years after their diagnosis.
Doctors may not be able to predict whether the patients’ conditions will get better with time or not, but yes, one can definitely live a normal life with multiple sclerosis.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential not only for people suffering from any type of illness but for everyone. Although there are no particular diets that have been shown to affect the disease process in MS, food fuels the body and provides energy. A well-balanced diet that is low in fat and high in fiber can help stabilize one's weight and improve bowel health. Regular exercise for people with MS is important for several reasons. It improves cardiovascular health, helps improve strength and endurance, and is a factor in stabilizing one's mood. Exercise can help relieve MS-related fatigue and manage spasticity. Aquatic therapy, also known as hydrotherapy, can be very helpful in MS since it provides an aerobic workout while keeping the body's temperature down. Other helpful exercise regimens include stretching and low-impact aerobic workouts combined with strength training using light weights.
Telling People You Have MS
Telling people that you have MS is a hard task. Digesting the fact that you have been diagnosed with MS is in itself not easy to accept. It takes courage to tell people and could be helpful as well. It is initially important to make people understand what MS is. Then it would be easier for people to accept it. It also depends on whom you are telling. Tell the person only what that person needs to know about MS. Thus, you can tailor the information you give depending on your relationship with the person whom you are about to tell.
Whom should you tell?
1) Partners: Your partner is your emotional anchor. In case of a disease that has no cure and will stay for a longer period of time, your condition definitely needs to be discussed with your partner. Having a chronic disease can affect the entire outlook of your life. Once you inform your partner, allow them to digest the information by giving them some time. After all, you need to have your partner by your side throughout your MS journey.
2) Family: Maybe they are the most difficult ones to tell because of the kind of emotional attachment you associate with them. However, they are the important ones who need to be informed. They will support you in all possible ways, may it be in financial or emotional aspects.
3) Children: If you have kids, it would be up to you as to how you will explain the entire situation to them. It is also important to explain to them in detail about what MS is and encourage them to ask you if they have any questions or concerns.
4) Friends: It may be a good idea to start with your closest friends and with those whom you feel most comfortable with. With time and practice, you’ll be able to decide how much you want to share and with which friends.
5) Employer and colleagues: Telling your colleagues about your health condition will have a significant impact on your work, job security, and career path. Before revealing the information about your MS, try weighing all the pros and cons of the probable outcome. Think about how your colleagues would take it. Moreover, think of how you would effectively approach them.