Understanding How Multiple Sclerosis Affects the Body in Multiple Ways
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system, disrupting the exchange of information between the brain and the rest of the body. According to the National MS Society, there are approximately one million Americans living with this often debilitating disease. This far-reaching disease affects many areas of health, contributing to a wide array of symptoms. Here are just a few of the ways that MS can affect your physical and mental health.
One of the most common symptoms of MS is general pain. Nearly half of all MS sufferers report pain related to the disease. This pain ranges from sharp pain that radiates on one side of the face to triggers along the back of the head and down the spine. Interestingly, women are twice as likely as men to report feeling localized pain. The good news is that this is one of the easier symptoms of MS to treat with medications.
Many people are tipped off to seek advice from a medical professional when they begin to experience numbness or tingling. As one of the earliest symptoms of the disease, this is often what signals that there is an issue. Those who experience this symptom report it as a burning sensation throughout the face, the trunk of the body, feet, and hands. This numbness and tingling can make it difficult to perform basic tasks such as walking. The symptom may be triggered by an unrelated illness, heat, or stressors in life.
Approximately 80% of MS sufferers will have to deal with some level of bladder dysfunction at some point in the progression of the disease. This includes issues with frequency, urgency, and urine dribbling. Because MS affects the nerves that control bladder function, it is not unusual for those diagnosed with the disease to have to deal with this recurring issue. Many people find relief with target medication or by limiting the amount of fluid intake, especially in the hours before bedtime.
Muscle spasms are another frequent complaint of those who have MS. These spasms may present as an annoying tightness or as severe muscle contractions. Also known as spasticity, these spasms may be triggered by wearing restrictive clothing, cold temperatures, or rising humidity levels. The spasms are most commonly located in the shoulders, back, upper legs, or neck. While it is impossible to avoid these entirely, you can treat the symptoms with gentle stretching exercises and muscle relaxants.
It is not unusual for those with MS to also experience clinical depression. Studies have shown that MS patients report a higher rate of depression than those without the disease. This is likely because of the changes in the brain that accompany MS. In addition, some of the medications used to treat the physical symptoms of MS may contribute to the proliferation of depression and other mental health feelings. Patients are encouraged to speak to their doctor if they notice any changes in their mental health. There are numerous medications and other strategies that can help to alleviate this depression.
There is a clear difference between feeling tired and having extreme fatigue. MS sufferers often report overwhelming feelings of fatigue. Despite getting a good night of rest, many MS patients cannot escape this fatigue. This feeling is often so bad that it makes it difficult to perform the basic functions of daily life. Eating foods that deliver energy, taking care to avoid stress, and being careful about not getting overheated are all ways that you can keep this fatigue at bay.
When you understand how MS attacks the central nervous system, it is not surprising to learn that many patients also experience issues with walking. The various symptoms of muscle weakness and numbness combine with balance and coordination issues to make it challenging to walk at times. Physical therapy and the use of an assistive walking device can help to deal with this symptom.
The promising news is that as more is learned about this disease, the treatment options become more targeted and successful. With the wide range of treatments available today, it is getting easier to live with this disease.
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