Knowledge is the single most important weapon you will ever have in your MS-fighting arsenal. It is the one thing you can and should pursue immediately, whether the diagnosis is official or just suspected.
Reaching that diagnosis may take some time because early symptoms can be vague, and there is no single test for multiple sclerosis. Rather, diagnosis comes in the form of patient history, a series of tests, and elimination of other diseases that produce similar symptoms. MRI frequently results in earlier diagnosis -- including children and teenagers. Even so, it is a process that often takes years and, in the most problematic cases, decades.
In spite of that, it is important to empower yourself and become your own best advocate. There are many pros and cons when it comes to early treatment options for MS.
It is estimated that 8,000-10,000 children in the United States have multiple sclerosis and that many experience significant cognitive changes. Early intervention is crucial to the future well-being of these children, and there are known strategies that can be immediately implemented in order to compensate for cognitive difficulties.
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), a single neurologic episode lasting at least 24 hours and caused by inflammation or demyelination in the central nervous system, is often an early warning sign of MS. Studies have shown that early treatment may delay the onset of MS in patients with CIS. However, not all people with CIS go on to develop MS. The cost and commitment to possibly unnecessary injectable medications must be considered.
Studies indicate that disease-modifying drugs reduce disability progression in people with relapsing/remitting MS, the most common form of MS at onset. On the other hand, many people run a mild course of MS without use of disease-modifying drugs. Again, one must consider the high cost and commitment to use injectable drugs.
MS is as individual as each patient, with a seemingly endless list of symptoms. Nothing about it is cut and dry, so each patient must actively pursue a course of education and research. Each patient must make a series of decisions about treatment options, medical insurance, and lifestyle. It is never too soon to begin that process.
There are other things you can do if you're still waiting for diagnosis. Keep a daily journal of symptoms, no matter how vague or minor. Keep a list of all medications and test results you've had to date. When seeking a second opinion, gather all information from previous doctors and make a written list of questions. Be prepared.
Each decision you make is a personal one. Consider your own symptoms, fears, and lifestyle before committing to anything. Above all, stay informed.
Knowledge is power.
Published On: March 03, 2009