Our immune system is there to help us fight off infections, but for some people Multiple Sclerosis causes it to attack the nerves by mistake.
As the nervous system is complex and affects everything we do, it’s a condition which may affect many different parts of the body and is usually quite individual to each person.
MS is a lifelong condition which, according to the MS Society, over 130,000 people in the UK are currently living with. This week is MS Awareness Week #MSWeek in the UK, with the aim of encouraging conversations about the condition #LetsTalkMS.
The majority of people who are diagnosed with MS are between 30 and 60 years old. This is partly due to the fact that it can take some time to recognise symptoms and be given a diagnosis. It also affects almost three times as many women as men.
Often the first symptoms of MS are numbness, tingling and problems with vision. Other common symptoms can include fatigue, issues with speech and swallowing, bowel and bladder issues, pain, memory and cognitive issues, tremors, dizziness and balance issues and stiffness and spasms. These are symptoms which should be discussed with a GP as they can be indicative of several conditions, of which MS is only one.
If the GP suspects MS, they will refer the individual to a neurologist for diagnosis. However, there is no single test for MS, and diagnosis can take some time due to the need to rely on observation and monitoring of symptoms.
For those with a diagnosis of MS, there are three main types:
- Primary Progressive – symptoms become worse as time progresses.
- Secondary Progressive – experienced by some individuals with a diagnosis of Primary Progressive MS, where a build up of a disability occurs independent to any periods of relapse.
- Relapsing – the most common diagnosis, where symptoms ‘flare up’ and then recede or disappear for some time. Episodes occur at different times and come with previously experienced or new symptoms.
When a diagnosis of MS has been made, the neurologist or an MS nurse will discuss treatment options available to the individual. Some treatments help with the MS itself (disease modifying therapies/DMT’s), whilst others help manage the symptoms.
The individual may also wish to explore other ways of managing their MS, through such avenues as physiotherapy, diet and supplements, complementary therapies and exercise. There are also many avenues of support for the practical and emotional effects of MS, both for those living with the condition and their loved ones and carers.
If you or someone you care about have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and would like information about the support available, get in touch with our Information & Guidance team who will be delighted to help.