The number of multiple sclerosis patients may not be known, since it is a condition that is not easily diagnosed due to symptoms being unapparent, and because there is no strict requirement for physicians to report cases within their practice. However, it is believed that 2.3 million and more patients are affected by multiple sclerosis, and as it seems, the numbers may just be on the rise.
Does multiple sclerosis get worse over time?
This is a likelihood that needs to be addressed in the event that it happens. In just the same way that symptoms may disappear, MS symptoms could also persist or worsen in some patients. Sadly, it is not possible to determine whether the symptoms will disappear, persist, or worsen.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some drugs believed to modify the course of multiple sclerosis in two ways:
- Reducing relapse
- Delaying the progression of disability
There are also therapies that can be combined with medication to help patients manage the symptoms of MS.
Coping with Multiple Sclerosis
Before we get into how to cope with MS or manage its symptoms, it is vital to remember that there are four different types of MS, so management approaches will largely depend on each type.
Types of MS
- Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS) – This type of MS is characterized by early development of symptoms or gradually worsening (progressive) but without any incidents of relapse or remission. It is a rare type of MS that affects older people.
- Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS) – This MS is first characterized by a relapse or remission. Eventually, it goes into the secondary progressive stage, where the condition still gets worse even with treatment.
- Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS) – This would be the stage that SSPM comes after, and is the most common of the four types of MS. It is characterized by a relapse of new or existing MS symptoms followed by a period of remission but without progression at the time of remission.
- Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS) – This is perhaps the rarest form of MS. It is characterized by a consistent worsening of the condition right from the start with relapses and no remissions.
Here are a few tips to managing multiple sclerosis symptoms and overcoming your dependence. It is possible to improve your function and quality of life.
Take time to research about MS and learn about what it is, its diagnosis, who is more at risk of getting it, its symptoms, as well as the management and available treatment options for the different aspects of MS.
Symptom Management Through Medication and Rehabilitation
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis are usually felt after MS damages the myelin to interfere with communication between the central nervous system and the brain. This effect is usually managed with treatment options coupled with rehabilitation regimes.
The FDA has approved various medications towards modifying the course of the type of MS you have. These medications help in the following ways:
- Reducing relapse occurrences and intensity
- Because MS is also known to cause lesions in the brain and/or the spinal cord, medication reduces accumulation of such lesions
- Medication also helps with slowing down the buildup of disabilities as a result of MS
While medication will treat MS symptoms, rehabilitation helps a patient to improve or resume an almost normal functioning of the affected parts of the body in day-to-day activities. Rehabilitation is typically concerned with the following areas of human functioning:
- Physical fitness
- Proper use of body energy
- Accessibility and mobility, particularly at home and in the workplace
- Cognitive functions
It is advisable to start rehabilitation at the same time with medication and continue with it through all MS phases. Some aspects of rehabilitation include:
- Occupational therapy - This therapy is concerned with proper energy management, especially during the day-to-day personal or leisure activities to encourage self-reliance. It also includes training on the use of assistive devices to make activities at home and at work easier to handle. It also includes modification of home and office environments to suit an individual as far as access is concerned.
- Physical Therapy - Physical therapy is concerned with body functioning with a focus on movement, posture, and balance, as well as effects like pain and exhaustion. This therapy typically includes exercises aimed at the effective use of mobility aids and other devices. It also includes gait training to improve or maintain proper functioning while still preventing symptoms like weak muscles.
- Vocational Rehabilitation - Vocational rehabilitation focuses on an individual’s functioning at the workplace. This includes job preparation and readiness programs, mobility and assistive technology training, job training, and much more to help you adapt to your workplace after the effect of MS, or to find a job that doesn’t put a strain on your condition.
- Cognitive Rehabilitation - Cognitive rehabilitation is concerned with a person’s reasoning, thinking, memory, and concentration. In case these areas of body functioning are affected, specialists will help a patient manage the changes as optimally as possible.
- Speech-Language Pathology - This therapy helps an individual improve his communication and swallowing.
Managing Other Resulting Conditions
It has been confirmed that people suffering from MS can also suffer from other conditions known as comorbidities. These include depression, anxiety, diabetes, and hypertension to name but a few. On top of the effects of MS, these conditions worsen a person’s health. Comorbidity treatment options should also accompany MS treatment for more effective results.
Regular checkups will also help identify other risks early or altogether prevent them from occurring. These include such conditions as osteoporosis, kidney infections, or pneumonia.
Your Emotional Well-being
An MS diagnosis is normally received with grief and one’s emotional health is bound to be affected by all the changes that come with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. In such cases, anxiety and depression are never far off and have to be dealt with along with other treatments if the quality of life is to be achieved in all aspects of one’s life. Speak to your doctor, counselor, or choose a helpful support system to keep you going during your most difficult moments.
Unlike physical therapy, physical fitness is more of a personal initiative on the side of the patient. Exercise helps keep the nerves, muscles, and other body parts in check. It is also essential for better management of the symptoms of MS. Exercise also has a positive impact on one’s mood and cognitive function.
Lack of exercising, on the other hand, causes muscles to be weak and increases the risk of coronary heart disease. It also affects the bones and causes breathing problems. Most importantly, exercise programs should be adjusted in line with the improvement or worsening thereof, of someone’s condition.
Appropriate MS Diet and Nutrition
Diet is an important aspect of any individual’s well-being. So far, no particular diet has been confirmed to be ideal for people with MS. However, some studies have shown that low-fat foods are good for MS patients. Also, the intake of omega-3 and omega-6 can boost health in general. Foods such as fish, flaxseed, and cod liver oil are rich in omega-3, while sunflower seed oil is a good source of omega-6.
High fiber foods are also said to be good for the body's proper functioning. Other nutrients to consider are vitamin D, known to boost immunity, and vitamin B found in biotin. Vitamin B helps enzymes break down substances in the body while keeping a healthy functioning of the nervous system.
Mobility Aids and Assistive Technology
Mobility aids and assistive technologies are devices that help an MS patient and other patients having difficulty with mobility to move around and have easy and safe access to areas they would otherwise need help with. These tools ease the movement process and are designed to help you use less than normal energy when going about your daily routine.
With the help of a rehabilitation specialist, you can choose the right assistive technology and get proper advice on how to modify your environment at home and at work to suit your situation and help you be independent.
Others in the advanced stage of MS may just as well require complex rehabilitation technology (CRT) devices such as configured wheelchairs to help them with their disabilities.
Above everything else, staying positive is the most important aspect of life. If you have equipped yourself with the necessary treatment options, exercise programs, assistive technology, and a helpful support system, it’s time to indulge in fun activities that will keep your mood on the high. If you love gardening, cooking, going camping, or nature trails, there’s nothing to stop you.
Just be sure that you are safe and that you can easily access the places you will be going to.