Living with multiple sclerosis (MS) can be challenging. Fatigue, vision problems, memory lapses and other MS symptoms can have a major impact on your life, whether it’s taking care of your family, going to work, or just doing your normal, daily activities. But a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis doesn’t mean the end of living well. There are many techniques, treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your multiple sclerosis.
Take an Active Role in Managing Your MS
The first step in living better with multiple sclerosis is getting diagnosed. If you are having symptoms, talk to your doctor. Once you are diagnosed, you can ask your doctor about MS treatments that can slow the progression of your disease, reduce relapses and help you live more comfortably. You can also work with your doctor to manage common side effects you may have from your therapy.
In addition to MS treatments you get at your doctor’s office, you can also manage your multiple sclerosis symptoms by making some changes in your lifestyle. Click on the links to the left to learn more about exercise, diet, stress relief and other tips to help you get more out of life.
Managing Multiple Sclerosis Symptom: Vision Problems
Some medications can help with vision problemsmultiple sclerosis symptoms. You can also:
Patch one eye or use opaque tape over one lens on a pair of glasses
Add a magnifying light to your computer or desk
Look for low-vision computer enhancement products
Label refrigerator and freezer shelves in big print so it’s easier to find items
Get an organizer for your makeup and toiletries
Managing Multiple Sclerosis Symptom: Weakness
Muscle weakness can cause problems with walkingmultiple sclerosis symptoms. A physical therapist may be able to show you exercises to improve strength and flexibility. In addition, consider equipment to help you move more easily. This includes scooters, canes, crutches and wheelchairs.
Managing Multiple Sclerosis Symptom: Numbness
Most of the time, numbness is not disabling, but you do need to be carefulmultiple sclerosis symptoms. Watch yourself around sources of heat, such as fire and hot water, as you may get burned without knowing it.
Managing Multiple Sclerosis Symptom: Pain
The symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be painful. Physical therapy (PT) may help. A PT program would probably include strengthening exercises and compensatory techniques, such as bracing to prevent overuse of muscles. There are also a variety of both prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help ease MS pain. Ask your doctor about which medicine may be right for you.
Managing Multiple Sclerosis Symptom: Bowel and Bladder Problems
Establishing good bowel and bladder habits may help ease or prevent problems in the futuremultiple sclerosis symptoms. Try the following suggestions.
For your bowels:
Drink at least six to eight glasses of fluid every day
Add more fiber to your diet. It’s especially important if you have limited mobility, which can increase constipation
Be as active as you can. But consult with your doctor before undergoing any exercise plan
Use fiber supplements or stool softeners as needed, and as advised by your doctor
For your bladder:
Drink at least six to eight glasses of fluid every day
Drink cranberry juice
Use absorbent pads when necessary.
Plan in advance—learn where bathrooms are at the mall, movie theater, or wherever you spend your free time
Managing Multiple Sclerosis Symptom: Intimacy
Lack of communication can be one of the biggest problems for you and your partnermultiple sclerosis symptoms. Your partner may not fully understand the sexual difficulties associated with multiple sclerosis. Sexual dysfunction is an MS symptom that can be addressed through counseling and medication. But most importantly, try to maintain a healthy dialogue between the two of you.
Managing Multiple Sclerosis Symptom: Balance/Coordination Problems
Poor balance cannot only make life difficult, it can also be dangerous due to falls. The following may help. Before pursuing any new activities, please consult with your doctor.
Use of an assistive device, such as a brace or cane
Managing Multiple Sclerosis Symptom: Fatigue
Nearly 80% of people with MS complain of fatiguemultiple sclerosis symptoms. This lack of energy can be debilitating and depressing. Try these tips.
Plan your day. Schedule your most important activities for the times when you have the most energy. Eliminate low-priority tasks
Take naps. A 10- to 30-minute nap can refresh you and pump new energy into muscles
Keep cool. Lowering your body temperature can re-energize you. Try cool showers, air conditioning or a dip in the pool
Try relaxation and deep breathing exercises
Discuss possible medications with your doctor
Managing Multiple Sclerosis Symptom: Cognitive Function
Cognitive impairment can be one of the most frightening of all the MS symptomsmultiple sclerosis symptoms. Try to stay calm if you start to forget or become confused. Taking a few minutes to calm down can help clear your mind and memory. The following suggestions can also help.
Keep a daily diary with appointments, reminders and "to do" lists
Use electronic organizers for phone numbers and addresses
Keep important papers and other things in one place that’s easy to remember. A consistent routine makes remembering easier
Take a break if you feel overwhelmed
Maintain a sense of humor. A little laughter can go a long way.
Managing Multiple Sclerosis Symptom: Mood Changes
Depression is a serious and common problem of multiple sclerosismultiple sclerosis symptoms. If you’re feeling depressed, talk to your doctor. Medication and/or counseling can help. You should also consider joining a self-help group to meet others who share your condition and concerns. But in any case, don’t ignore your feelings. Help is available.
MS and Stress
Everybody feels stressed out sometimes. But if you have multiple sclerosis (MS), you may be more stressed than ever. The uncertainty of the disease, the physical and cognitive symptoms, the loss of control and many other issues can all add to your anxiety levels. That’s understandable. But too much stress can be harmful. Some studies indicate there may be a relationship between stress and the onset of multiple sclerosis relapses. And, many people say their multiple sclerosis symptoms are worse during times of stress.
What can you do to reduce the stress caused by your multiple sclerosis? There are several ways to cope.
Simplify your life. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let the house be a little messy. Play hooky from work. Just let yourself have some fun.
Learn to say no. If you don’t have the strength or time to do something, it’s okay to say no. Save your energy for things you want and need to do.
Share your stress. It can help to talk to others with MS. Ask your doctor about MS support groups in your area.
Get enough rest and eat well. If you are irritable and tense from lack of sleep, or if you are not eating correctly, you may be less able to deal with stress.
Get involved with an exercise program. When your MS causes you to be nervous, angry or upset, exercise can release the stress you are feeling. Running, walking, and playing tennis or golf are some of the activities that can reduce stress. If you are in a wheelchair, you can still stretch your body—lean forward and bend side-to-side. Don't let the chair stop you from participating. Yoga is another good way to relax.
Managing Common Side Effects
All multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments can have some side effects, but they don’t affect everybody in the same way. Every person responds differently to different medications. Some people will have reactions; others may not.
Some injectable MS treatments may cause flu-like side effects, such as fever, chills, muscle aches, and tiredness. For many people, the flu-like side effects lessen or go away over time. But if you do experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to recommend ways to get symptom relief, such as:
If you receive an injectable MS treatment, change the time of day that you take your injection. Many people choose bedtime so they can sleep through many of the side effects
Take over-the-counter pain medications. They can help reduce pain or fever
Look at the big picture. Remember that you can take MS treatment to slow the progression of physical disability and reduce relapses
For more suggestions on managing flu-like symptoms, call the MS ActiveSource Support Specialists toll free at 1-800-456-2255.