Download PDF Managing Your Multiple Sclerosis : Practical Advice to Help You Manage Your Multiple Sclerosis

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Sometimes the best thing to do is to allow yourself to feel sad or angry. Trying to force yourself to be happy can lead to frustration or even despair. Rather than giving into negative thoughts, overcome them by reminding yourself that these bad feelings are temporary. You may not believe it at first, but keep saying it to yourself. Constantly battling MS symptoms can eat up so much time that when you do get a break, you may forget about the positive things in your life.

Even worse, when your symptoms are less severe, you might spend much of the time worrying about when they'll return. Check in with yourself a couple of times a day and see if you can find times when you are happy. Spend some time thinking about the best parts of your life. You may also find it helpful to start a gratitude journal. People may think they are being helpful when they say things like, "Other people have it so much worse than you. Think about them and you'll realize your life isn't so bad.

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It also might make you feel worse to think about how hard others' lives must be—or make you feel guilty for complaining. Do your best to avoid going down the comparison path. Remember that someone else's pain doesn't invalidate your own. An ability to cope with and adapt to problems in a healthy way is called resiliency, and it's an important thing to have when you're living with a chronic condition.

Multiple Sclerosis : Accessibility

You likely face barriers to resiliency due to your MS. Several of these were identified by a study published in Disability and Rehabilitation. They include:. The good news is that you can learn or improve this ability to "bounce back" from adversity. Some methods for this involve specific types of treatment and therapy, such as getting treatment for depression and anxiety, if they're problems for you. If you believe you need help improving your resiliency, consider seeking the assistance of a psychologist.

Anger is a common issue in MS. Not only is it a natural consequence of having a chronic condition, the brain lesions MS causes may trigger anger just as they can blur your vision or make you clumsy. Whether you're struggling with anger or other emotions, it's imperative that you find healthy ways to cope.

What will be most helpful for you will be very personal, but it's a good idea to speak with a therapist who can help put a name to what you're feeling and provide you with strategies that work best for you. You may also find it helpful to speak with and hear from others with MS who very intimately understand the experience of this disease. You can search for a support group in your area by visiting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's website.

Using alcohol to "numb" feelings is never a good solution for anyone. And while alcohol dependency can be damaging enough on its own, drinking can also make MS symptoms temporarily worse. Some MS medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol as well. Furthermore, people with MS because are more prone to abusing alcohol due to depression that can result living with a chronic, often limiting health issue. Pay careful attention to how much alcohol you consume, how often, and how it affects you.

And if you find that it's your feelings that have you reaching for a drink, speak with a therapist about ways you can cope without alcohol. MS causes a lot of physical symptoms that can get in the way of your functionality and quality of life. It is important that you keep working with your doctor to find treatments that effectively manage your physical symptoms. The invisible symptoms of MS are often the hardest to deal with. For many people, the major ones are pain, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction. Pain is a reality for about 80 percent of people with MS.

It happens because demyelination causes nerve signals to get misdirected to pain receptors, which in turn send pain signals to your brain. When your brain receives a pain signal, you feel pain, even if it seems there's no reason for you to hurt. Pain that's related to nerve damage is called neuropathy or neuropathic pain. In MS, types of neuropathic pain can include burning, tingling, or numbness ; trigeminal neuralgia , MS hug , and optic neuritis.

MS also involves something called paroxysmal pain —often intensely painful sensations that come on suddenly and go away quickly. The spasticity and gait problems of MS can lead to joint and muscle pain. A complex set of pain symptoms requires a complex approach. Your doctor can help you find medications that lessen your pain. You may also benefit from massage, physical therapy, or home treatments like heat or topical pain relievers. Doctors used to be so certain that MS was a "painless disease" that complaints of pain caused them to move it down the list of possible diagnoses.

Fortunately, that's no longer the case. Fatigue is among the most debilitating symptoms of MS. It can result from the disease itself, as well as MS medications, related depression, stress, and overlapping sleep disorders. It's important to work with your doctor to uncover the cause s in your case and find treatments that work.

Recent Advances in the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis: Are We There Yet?

This might involve changing medications, changing the time of day you take certain drugs, treating sleep disorders, and improving your sleep hygiene. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may help you manage stress, as well. Cognitive problems impact at least 50 percent of people with MS. Commonly, this involves issues like not remembering names, difficulty processing new information or solving problems, and inability to concentrate, among other things.

Depression, poor sleep, and some medications may only make these issues worse. These symptoms can be frustrating and even embarrassing.

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  6. When they're severe, they may become a major reason for leaving a job or opting for isolation over social events. You may have success with finding ways to compensate, such as keeping a highly organized calendar or setting up alerts on your phone to remind you of appointments.

    You may also want to consider medications such as Ritalin methylphenidate , which can improve concentration and attention. This aspect of dealing with MS is one that takes many people by surprise. Relationships can be affected in a host of ways that are important to be aware of. Here's a look at some of the common social challenges of MS.

    What to tell people about your health, and when, is unique for just about every situation. The conversations you have with your family and close friends, for example, will likely be very different from those you have with, say, your boss or someone you're newly dating. In some cases, it can be a real benefit to have a conversation early. For example, if your manager doesn't know you have a chronic illness, she may not be understanding about problems like missing work or making a mistake. Disclosing your health status at work entitles you to reasonable accommodation as well, which may make it easier to keep working.

    On the flip side, just because it's illegal to discriminate against an employee because of their disability doesn't mean it never happens. Some people are justifiably afraid that they'll be passed over for promotions or otherwise penalized at work because of their MS. In the end, you're the only one who can decide when to tell people about your condition and how much to share. MS can be a challenge for everyone in the family, and it can make you worried about the kind of parent you can be.

    A key thing to remember is that a lot of people with MS and other debilitating diseases have raised healthy, happy, well-balanced children. Love and support can go a long way. Experts believe it's best to be open with your child from the start. Kids often know something is wrong even when they're not told, and that can cause them a lot of worry and stress.

    Research suggests that children who have an age-appropriate understanding of MS can deal with it better. Children can have different reactions to your illness, both at first and even years after your diagnosis.

    Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Nurse Specialists - Richmond

    If they react with anger or frustration, remember that they're young and grappling with something difficult. Try not to take it personally, even if the way they express it feels personal. If your child is having a lot of trouble, you may want to look into counseling or family therapy. Talk to your pediatrician as well as your own healthcare team for guidance.

    Having a parent with a chronic illness can even have an upside. Many children of parents with MS say they have more empathy and a better perspective on what's important in life. It may also help strengthen their ability to cope. While sex is a physical act, it's one that plays an important role in a marriage or other intimate relationship.

    Living Well with MS

    It's important that you and your partner talk openly about how MS may be impacting this part of your life. Couples' counseling can help you both articulate your feelings and find ways to restore intimacy. Understand that your partner may be hesitant about or avoiding sex because they're afraid they could hurt you. Teach them what does and doesn't cause you pain so they can be more confident and comfortable. It can also be very helpful to expand your idea of what sex is.

    Hugging, kissing, touching, mutual masturbation , and even talking can help you connect and be every bit as arousing. It's worth talking to your doctor about how your MS may be impacting your sex life, too. Physical factors, such as sexual dysfunction, loss of libido, and reduced genital sensitivity, can certainly compound psychological factors that interfere with sex, and there may be simple solutions that can help.

    Medications prescribed for MS may cause sexual dysfunction as well. In most cases, this can be improved by adjusting the timing of the dose. In other cases, a similar drug may have a lower risk of this side effect. A key to living well with your illness is to acknowledge and accept your limitations. Fighting them takes too much of your limited energy, and, as you've likely already discovered, it doesn't help your situation. A crucial step to practical management of your symptoms is learning to listen to your body. These treatments can weaken your immune system, which means live vaccines may not work or could make you ill.

    Coming to terms with a long-term condition like MS can put a strain on you, your family and your friends. You may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor or psychologist, or to someone at a specialist helpline. Some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have MS, either at a local support group or in an internet chatroom.


    It's worth taking time to think about your specific needs and what you might need to achieve the best quality of life. If you're considering starting a family, discuss it with your healthcare team, who can offer advice. Relapses tend to be less common in pregnancy, although they can be more common in the months after giving birth.

    But some medicine shouldn't be taken during pregnancy, so it's important to discuss this with your healthcare team. If you have to stop work or work part-time because of your MS, you may find it difficult to cope financially. In many cases, you'll be able to continue driving, but you'll be asked to complete a form providing more information about your condition, as well as details of your doctors and specialists. Page last reviewed: 20 December Next review due: 20 December Self care Self care is an integral part of daily life.

    They can live longer, have a better quality of life, and be more active and independent. Regular reviews Although you'll probably be in regular contact with your care team, you should also have a comprehensive review of your care at least once a year. Regular activity and exercise is important for both general health and fitness. Stopping smoking Smoking is associated with an increased risk of a wide range of health conditions, and may also increase the speed at which MS gets worse. If you smoke, stopping may help to slow the progression of your MS.

    It can be difficult to talk to people about your condition, even if they're close to you. Inevitably, their spouse, partner or carer will feel anxious or frustrated as well. Be honest about how you feel, and let your family and friends know what they can do to help. Don't feel shy about telling them that you need some time to yourself, if that's what you want. Care and support services It's worth taking time to think about your specific needs and what you might need to achieve the best quality of life.

    But some of the medicine prescribed for MS may affect fertility in both men and women. Pregnancy Women with MS can have a normal pregnancy, deliver a healthy baby and breastfeed afterwards.