68. Multiple Sclerosis: You Can Live with It

Normally, delicate nerves are encased in a protective covering called myelin. With multiple sclerosis, the myelin becomes inflamed and eventually dissolves. Over time, scar tissue (sclerosis) accumulates where the myelin used to be. “Multiple” sclerosis occurs in scattered locations in the spinal cord and brain. Nerve impulses, which normally travel at a speed of 225 miles per hour, either slow down considerably or come to a complete halt. This causes the symptoms of MS, which can include:

  1. Fatigue.

  2. Weakness.

  3. Numbness.

  4. Poor coordination.

  5. Bladder and bowel problems.

  6. Blurred vision, double vision, or transient blindness in one eye.

  7. Muscle spasticity.

  8. Pain (can be acute and chronic types, such as burning pain).

  9. Emotional mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, euphoria.

No one knows what causes MS, but infection and other immunity factors are possibilities.

People most susceptible to MS are:

  1. Adults between 20 and 50 years old.

  2. People whose siblings or parents already have the disease.

  3. Women (two to three times as many women as men have MS).

  4. Residents of the northern United States, Canada, and northern Europe.

While no cure exists for multiple sclerosis, you can take several steps to make living with the disease easier. These include:

  1. Taking prescribed medication to lessen the number and severity of flare-ups and to slow the progression of the disease. Research favors early treatment with this type of medicine.

  2. Taking prescribed medications to treat symptoms.

  3. Getting plenty of rest.

  4. Treating bacterial infections and fever as soon as they occur.

  5. Avoiding situations and activities that increase body temperature, such as hot showers or baths, since they, too, can aggravate symptoms. (In fact, cool baths or swimming in a pool may improve symptoms by lowering body temperature.)

  6. Minimizing stressful situations, especially physically demanding ones, since stress seems to aggravate the symptoms.

  7. Maintaining a normal routine at work and at home if activities aren’t physically demanding.

  8. Getting regular exercise. Physical therapy may be helpful.

  9. Having body massages to help maintain muscle tone.

  10. Getting professional, supportive psychological counseling.

Chapter 2
  1. Major Medical Conditions:

  2. Prevention, Detection, and Treatment