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Multiple Sclerosis awareness

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Author: Holly Hannigan, Posted: Monday, 24th February 2020, 09:00

Anyone who has heard of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) will be aware of how debilitating and isolating it can become. This year, MS Awareness Week runs from 20th-26th April, and hopefully after reading this article you will have some more understanding yourself.

MS is an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain) where the immune system gets confused and instead of attacking an infection or virus, it turns on itself and attacks the nerve cells.

The ‘messages’ being transmitted from and to the brain are disrupted, causing them to slow down, become distorted or not get through at all. This process of attacking nerve cells causes many scars or lesions in different places within the central nervous system.

Patients experience different symptoms at different times

The symptoms that occur depend on the site and severity of the lesions, and this is why people with MS experience different symptoms at different times.

It is estimated that there are more than 107,000 people in the UK diagnosed with MS. It is commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 30 and there are roughly three times more women affected than men.

The symptoms of MS vary considerably but often the things that are affected are:

• Balance – in some people with MS, problems with balance can cause unsteadiness, clumsiness, and affect limb movement and posture

• Bladder problems tend to fall into the areas of urgency, frequency and retention

• Bowel problems to some degree – constipation and difficulties emptying the bowel are the most common

• Cognition – memory, information processing, problem solving, word-finding and concentration

• Fatigue

• Foot drop – a weakness in the ankle that causes the foot to drag along the ground or hang down when walking

• Pain

• Mobility issues

• Speech and swallowing disorders

• Spasticity, muscle spasms and tremors

Symptoms can come and go, and some of them are much more responsive to treatment, while others can be more difficult to manage.

Unfortunately, there is no one single test or procedure that can be used to diagnose MS. It is often a case of watching and waiting to see if new symptoms appear or previous symptoms recur. This process can be frustrating; it is hard to accept that a conclusive diagnosis can take months or even years.

There are a variety of treatments

When it comes to treatments, there are Disease Modifying Therapies (medications designed to reduce the amount of relapses), complementary therapies such as massage and reflexology, gentle exercise and good sleep routines, diet and supplements, and recent research has shown positive results using medicinal cannabis.

If you are struggling with a diagnosis or managing your symptoms, talk to your GP or access support groups. Sometimes counselling, CBT or Solution Focussed Hypnotherapy can help.

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