Multiple sclerosis symptoms can vary from person to person; some lifestyle changes to help manage
By Dr Jagannadha Avasarala
University of Kentucky Health
Multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic neurological disease of the brain and spinal cord, is the most common neurological disease in young people. In fact, this disease affects about a quarter of a million Americans.
The cause of MS is unknown. However, experts know that something triggers the immune system to attack the brain and spinal cord. The immune system damages myelin, or the insulating layer around nerves, which disrupts signals to and from the brain. For this reason, people with MS can be severely affected in their daily lives.
MS symptoms can be acute or chronic and can vary from person to person. It is important to be aware of the different symptoms of MS. Symptoms of MS can include:
• Walking problems such as tiredness or weakness when walking, speaking or swallowing
• Tingling or numbness in the limbs
• Bladder and bowel dysfunction
• Cognitive dysfunction
• Mood swings or depression
• Sexual dysfunction
• Tremors or spasms
• Visual impairment
• In severe cases, people with MS may become blind and/or paralyzed
There is no known cure for MS. Therefore, symptom management is an essential part of living a healthy life with this condition. Your doctor may choose to treat your MS with steroid treatments, blood transfusions, or physical therapy depending on the severity of your symptoms.
However, in addition to treatments from your doctor, there are many things you can do to help too. Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to help you manage MS symptoms from home:
• Get adequate amounts of quality rest. People with MS are more likely to experience sleep disturbances than the rest of the population. To improve the quality of your sleep, try clearing your mind before bed, practicing relaxation techniques, removing electronics from the bedroom, and adjusting your sleep schedule.
• Exercise. If you can, regular exercise can help increase your strength, muscle tone, balance, and coordination. Swimming is a great option for those who are bothered by the heat.
• Refresh yourself. If your body temperature rises, MS symptoms can get worse. Avoiding heat exposure by wearing cooling clothes can help.
• Eat a balanced diet. A cardiac diet may be recommended and make sure you get enough fiber and water to help with potential MS-induced gut issues.
• Relieve stress. When you’re stressed, your MS symptoms can get worse. Yoga, tai chi, massage, deep breathing, or meditation can all help relieve stress.
Most importantly, if you are having difficulty with your diagnosis or symptoms, it is important to contact your doctor for additional resources on MS treatment.
Dr. Jagannadha Avasarala, MD, Ph.D, is a neurologist at UK HealthCare Kentucky Neuroscience Institute.