Moving Forward with Multiple Sclerosis

By Erin Hagan

Almost one million people in the United States deal with multiple sclerosis (MS), an unpredictable condition affecting the central nervous system, which plays a vital role in controlling our daily activities. It can impact anyone, but it’s more common among those between 20 and 40 years old, making MS a significant cause of neurological disability in young adults in North America.

Living with multiple sclerosis is different for each person, but the encouraging news is that there are numerous ways to effectively manage the disease. March is designated as National Multiple Sclerosis Month, offering a perfect opportunity to explore this condition and discover ways to enhance the quality of life for those affected by MS.

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Understanding Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks the brain and nerves, disrupting communication with the body and causing various symptoms. Individuals with MS often go through relapses, also referred to as flare-ups or exacerbations. During these episodes, new symptoms may emerge, or existing ones worsen as the immune system targets the protective coating (myelin) around the nerves. Common symptoms include:

  • Impaired mobility
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Cognitive function challenges
  • Mood changes
  • Sensory loss
  • Vision issues
  • Coordination difficulties

Notably, women are three times more likely to be affected by MS than men. Other factors such as genetics and smoking significantly contribute to the risk of multiple sclerosis.

The Impact of Mobility Devices

As the challenges of mobility limitations and debilitating fatigue persist in MS, the use of mobility aids becomes crucial, not only helping patients conserve energy but also enabling individuals to engage in activities for longer periods.

Those with MS often rely on mobility assistive technology, including canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, to enhance their ease of movement and foster greater independence in daily life. This growing reliance on assistive devices is reflected in the market, which is projected to grow by 43% to $39.6 billion by 2030.

Thriving Beyond Diagnosis

Navigating life with multiple sclerosis can be difficult, given the varying nature of symptoms and the possibility of relapses. Yet, it’s empowering to know that discovering personalized approaches and utilizing the right resources can help make daily activities more manageable.

Here are some helpful resources for handling MS:

  • Connect with Personalized Support. MS Navigators can link patients to information and assistance required for their individual needs. Acting as supportive allies, they offer emotional support through resources such as support groups and connections with others living with MS.
  • Participate in Rehabilitation Programs. A rehabilitation team usually comprises physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists who address mobility, personal care, home and work roles, and overall fitness. They also tackle challenges in speech, swallowing, and cognitive functions that may arise during relapses, offering strategies to enhance thinking, communication, and memory.
  • Embrace Technological Solutions. Technological advancements provide innovative tools and apps for managing symptoms, staying connected, and maintaining independence. For instance, applications like “Flare: Multiple Sclerosis” monitor symptoms, triggers, and relapses, while brain-training apps such as “Elevate” offer games specifically crafted to strengthen focus, processing speed, and accuracy.

Empowering Lives: Managing Multiple Sclerosis

Despite the unique challenges presented by MS, an abundance of resources exists to effectively manage the disease. Whether it’s connecting with specialists, utilizing mobility aids, or embracing personalized strategies, individuals with MS can lead fulfilling lives. This month and beyond, let’s raise awareness and provide support to those navigating the complexities of multiple sclerosis.

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