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Multiple Sclerosis – Help is Available

by Margot F. October 4th, 2014 | Women's Health
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womanMultiple Sclerosis or MS is two times more common in women than men and the incidents continue to increase. Women are accustomed to screening for various female cancers and heart disease, yet MS is also common. When MS hits, the whole family is affected. The cause is unknown and there is no cure, but some medications help relieve symptoms and adaptations can be made to make mobility easier.

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic neurological disease which tends to hit young adults ages 15 to 40 although children and older adults are now being diagnosed. There are 100,000 cases of Multiple Sclerosis in Canada and 400,000 cases in the United States. Globally the number of incidences of the disease is increasing so it is a good idea to know some of the symptoms.

MS is a chronic complex neurological disease that affects everyone differently although there are some common symptoms. In Multiple Sclerosis the sheaths covering the nerves in the spinal cord, brain and optic nerves can become damaged causing scarring or sclerosis. Symptoms vary depending on where the scarring occurs. Early symptoms can include vision loss, balance issues, numbness and or tingling among other problems. Most people experience fatigue.

MS is challenging to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic other conditions and diseases so it is necessary to see a neurologist who specializes in Multiple Sclerosis. An accurate diagnosis requires an MRI to confirm the presence of abnormalities in the brain.
When a person is diagnosed with MS it can be overwhelming. It is important to get support from professionals and social networks. Medications can help alleviate symptoms, but the disease tends to be progressive. Also, the side effects of the drugs can be extreme. Some people have chosen alternative therapies such as acupuncture and injections of bee pollen to manage the disease.  Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that these are effective in reducing symptoms.

In conjunction with medications, medical professionals recommend exercise such as yoga, water aerobics and tai chi to reduce stiffness and stay engaged with the community. People who experience balance issues or have problems with coordination and muscle strength may benefit from physiotherapy. An occupational therapist can help keep hands flexible enough to allow a person to continue writing and dress independently. For people whose speech or swallowing is effected by MS, a speech therapist might be helpful. Massage therapy can be used to relieve  muscle pain.

Women who have MS can still get pregnant and give birth to healthy children. However, it is important to consult with the doctor regarding the medications that can be used during pregnancy and later, while nursing the baby. Although MS attacks tend to decrease during pregnancy, shortly after delivery the symptoms return.

If a person experiences persistent vision issues, numbness down one side of the body or has significant trouble walking, it is important to consult a doctor. Because Multiple Sclerosis strikes women two times more often than men, know the signs and get treatment. Help is available.

 

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.