March has been designated as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, and for good reason. It is a disease which is not only misunderstood by the general public, but by the very people whose lives are affected by it. Some progress has been made in the treatment of MS, but we have a long way to go. Researchers continue to find new clues, yet much mystery remains.
What do we want the world to know about multiple sclerosis?
- MS is a neurological disease in which lesions form in the central nervous system, interrupting the transmission of signals to the rest of the body.
- Relapsing/Remitting MS, the most common form at onset, causes flare-ups followed by periods of remission.
- There are several types of Progressive MS in which symptoms worsen over time.
- Symptoms vary greatly from patient to patient and include fatigue, numbness, visual impairment, slurred speech, tremors, vertigo, lack of coordination and in the worse cases, paralysis and blindness.
- Though MS itself is rarely fatal, complications due to MS can be.
- MS is more common in women. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. Due to MRI, more children are being diagnosed with MS.
- There is currently no single definitive test for MS.
- MS is not contagious.
- The cause is unknown. Genetics and environmental factors are two avenues researchers are pursuing.
- There is no cure.
- Though our symptoms are often invisible to you, we do, indeed, have a serious medical condition.
- It is not a psychological disorder.
- Fatigue with MS is beyond lacking a good night's sleep. It is a bone-weary, mind-numbing, all-over body fatigue which renders its victims unable to function.
- The relapsing/remitting nature of MS takes an emotional toll; depression is a common symptom of MS.
- Years of dealing with these issues can devastate patients and the entire family structure.
What do we want the next president and congress to know about multiple sclerosis?
- Symptoms can drive us out of the workforce.
- The medications currently available to treat MS are exorbitantly priced, forcing patients to forgo the very treatment which could stave off further disability. There are no generics.
- Without group health insurance, individual coverage with a diagnosis of MS -- if offered at all -- can be priced out of reach of many.
- The financial ramifications of a diagnosis of MS are devastating.
- Research is the key.
What do we want to remind ourselves about living with multiple sclerosis?
- Life offers no guarantees.
- Strength is gained through adversity. So are appreciation, patience and understanding.
- There may be some things we can no longer do, but we have new talents waiting to be discovered.
- We are never alone. People with MS are reaching out to support each another.
- There's a lot of living yet to do.
- We have MS, but we are so much more...
Published On: February 29, 2008