What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex disease, which affects the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and spinal cord along with optic nerves. Multiple sclerosis is not a terminal illness but a lifelong medical condition. Moreover, MS is neither contagious or infectious. Thus, it cannot be passed on from one individual to another. Usually, individuals with MS do not have the same range of symptoms or severity of the disease.
Women are more prone to developing this disease than men. The disease is mostly diagnosed when individuals are in their 20s or 30s. It is also important to note that MS is not inherited. However, having someone in the family with MS increases one's risk of developing the disease.
The symptoms of MS usually come and go and can vary between hours or days. Currently, there is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, but there are medications and therapies that would help control the symptoms.
Common Misconceptions About Multiple Sclerosis
You may know somebody with MS, but still, there isn’t much you know about the disease. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition, wherein the immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin, which is a protective covering that insulates nerve fibers. In the US alone, there are around 400,000 people living with multiple sclerosis, which has many misconceptions.
In this article, we expose some of the misconceptions and inform you what you can truly expect if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
1. Individuals with MS should not be physically active.
If you have MS, you definitely need to exercise since physical activities are good for your health. Exercising can also help you manage your MS symptoms. It improves your balance, endurance, and strength. It also helps improve your moods, bowel movements, and overall quality of life.
However, safety precautions must be taken while exercising such as becoming overheated since it can make your MS symptoms worse. You can avoid overheating by taking breaks and by exercising early in the morning.
It is also important that the exercises are tailored according to your limitations. If your symptoms have improved, some routines may need to be changed or adjusted. Getting help from a physical therapist can help you put together exercises that are suitable for your condition.
2. MS is a terminal illness.
Most individuals can prevent certain complications by treating MS symptoms along with regular preventive care. Moreover, the lifespan of people diagnosed with MS is nearly the same as the general population. Just like everybody else, people with MS can also die from heart disease, stroke, or cancer.
Another significant risk factor for individuals to have an early death in MS is untreated depression. Most cases of undiagnosed depression can lead to suicide. If you or any of your loved one experiences unusual mood changes, talk with your doctor and seek immediate medical help.
3. MS doesn’t lead to any pain.
This is a very common myth. However, the truth is that individuals diagnosed with MS also feel pain caused by the disease. Individuals with MS definitely experience long-term chronic pain, which requires early intervention and timely treatment.
4. Individuals diagnosed with MS have to give up work.
People recently diagnosed with MS might be advised to quit working by their concerned family and friends. However, there is really no need for people with MS to stop working. Those who quit work to avoid stress may find that doing nothing or being unemployed can create its own levels of stress. Moreover, being productive can create a sense of purpose in life, which can avoid anxiety and depression.
5. MS patients will end up in a wheelchair.
According to the National MS Society, two-thirds of people diagnosed with MS are able to walk and do not end up in wheelchairs. Most individuals with MS are physically capable. However, many will still need assistive devices such as canes, walkers, or crutches to make life easier.
Some people even use motorized scooters when going long distances to conserve their energy once they arrive at the place of activity or event. There is no need to stop moving when you have MS. You can still keep doing the things you love to make your life worthwhile.
6. Women with MS should not have children.
There are no changes in the relapse rate of women during their 9 months of pregnancy and 3 months after giving birth. Moreover, there seem to be no long-term effects regarding disability. Over the past four decades, a number of studies found that pregnancy can actually minimize MS flares, particularly during the 1st and 2nd trimesters.
However, certain treatment methods may change during the course of pregnancy. It is important to consult your doctor if you’re planning to get pregnant.
7. MS treatment should start with less powerful medications.
The maximum risk of developing certain irreversible problems is just right after one has been diagnosed with the disease. It means that most immune responses involved with MS happen in the early stages of the disease. Thus, an aggressive type of treatment must be started as soon as possible to lower the rate of relapse as well as slow down the formation of brand new lesions.
8. MS is contagious.
This misconception partly exists since studies have shown a link between Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and MS. Researchers suggest that the virus may help trigger MS in individuals. However, there is not enough evidence to prove that MS is actually transferrable or can be potentially contagious.
However, studies do suggest that certain genetic and environmental factors may make individuals more prone to developing the disease.
9. Every MS case runs the same course.
There are various environmental factors that can play a significant role in determining whether or not a person can develop MS along with determining the severity of the condition. Habits, lifestyle, and behavior of the individual all seem to contribute to the improvement or severity of the MS condition. Hence, no two cases can be considered the same.
10. MS only affects an individual's mobility.
The disease also affects an individual’s cognition. People with MS also encounter problems when it comes to remembering, thinking, and information processing. If you experience such changes, you can ask your doctor about the ways that can help improve your thinking and memory.
- Multiple sclerosis is not a terminal illness but a lifelong medical condition, which affects more women than men.
- Currently, there is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, but there are medications and therapies that would help control the symptoms.
- An aggressive type of treatment must be started as soon as possible to lower the rate of relapse as well as slow down the formation of brand new lesions.