If you receive a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, you won’t be sure what to think. You know it will change your life, but you’re not sure exactly how. Will your life be shorter? Will you be able to live normally? What accommodations will you have to make?
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. It develops when your immune system attacks nerves in your brain and spinal cord. This attack damages the myelin sheath covering the nerve. When this sheath is damaged, the nerves can’t transmit electrical signals, preventing your brain from communicating well with the rest of your body.
Symptoms vary depending on which nerves are attacked, but they often include partial or complete loss of vision, pain when you move your eyes, numbness and tingling in your arms and legs, difficulty keeping your balance, and more.
Most people are diagnosed with relapsing, remitting MS, which means they will experience periods of time where they have symptoms, followed by periods of remission where symptoms are not present.
How to live with multiple sclerosis
MS is rarely fatal: Most people who have the disease will live just as anyone who doesn’t have it. There is no cure, but medications can slow the progress of the disease and reduce the impacts of severe attacks.
In addition, a few lifestyle changes can help you manage your condition and keep the symptoms at bay:
Eat a healthy diet that’s low in fat and high in fiber. This is especially important to help relieve bowel and bladder problems that can be common in multiple sclerosis patients.
Keep up a consistent exercise routine to benefit both your physical and mental health. Low-impact activities like gardening and swimming can help you maintain mobility and flexibility even as your disease progresses.
Avoid using tobacco and drinking alcohol. Smoking can make MS progress more quickly, and alcohol can interact with MS medications in detrimental ways.
Make sure to continue activities that are mentally and socially stimulating so you can preserve your cognitive function. Read, do crossword puzzles, watch game shows, and have conversations with others to keep your brain active.
Don’t forget various therapies as well. Physical therapy can help you fight muscle weakness and manage gait problems, while occupational therapy can help you learn how to do daily tasks that have become much harder to complete because of MS. Talking to a mental health professional can also help you work through the emotional side of the disease and deal with the inevitable life changes that will come.
If you think you may have multiple sclerosis, or if you have been diagnosed with MS and need treatment, Dr. Luay Shayya at Neurology Consultants of Arizona is accepting new patients. Contact our office today to set up an initial consultation, and our team of experts will give you the compassionate care you deserve!