What is multiple sclerosis, and how many people does it affect? What are the symptoms of this disease, and what can be done to assist those suffering from MS? The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation estimates that more than 400,000 people in the United States and about 2.5 million people around the world have MS. While that may not sound like a lot in a world of more than 8 billion people, this disease has serious ramifications for those who have it (and their loved ones). Before we take an in-depth look at the disease, here are some names you may recognize of famous people who have shared their diagnoses:
- Annette Funicello (actress and Disney Mouseketeer)
- Richard Pryor (comedian)
- Montel Williams (host of the Montel Williams Show)
- Neil Cavuto (Senior VP for Fox Business Network)
- Clay Walker (country artist)
- Ann Romney (wife of former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney)
These ambassadors for MS have done a lot to promote knowledge and research about the disease…and ensure that others with the diagnosis know that they are not alone. But what is multiple sclerosis exactly? Let’s take an in-depth look...
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the body’s central nervous system (specifically the spinal cord and brain). Healthy nerves are composed of nerve endings that are connected by a long slender section of the nerve cell known as an axon. When everything is working properly the axon is covered by what’s known as a “myelin sheath” (a fatty white substance that is important for the normal function of the nervous system). In patients suffering from Multiple sclerosis (MS) the myelin sheath breaks down which causes communication problems between the brain and the body. Symptoms are variable from patient to patient. Like Alzheimer’s disease, there is no known cure for multiple sclerosis and there is still uncertainty as to the cause (although it is typically thought to be an autoimmune disease). Available treatments will not cure MS but can help to manage symptoms, alter the course of the disease, and speed recovery from attacks.
What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?
Typical symptoms include numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, blurred vision, slurred speech, dizziness, and degradation of bowel function. According to the Mayo Clinic, multiple sclerosis typically affects people between the ages of 15 and 60, is nearly twice as likely to occur in women than it is in men, and is most frequently diagnosed in those of north European descent and in individuals with a family history of the disease. Interestingly, rates of MS are higher farther from the equator.To learn more about the disease you can watch this informative video from Dr. B. Mark Keegan:
The Mayo Clinic staff says the following about multiple sclerosis:
“Most people with MS have a relapsing-remitting disease course. They experience periods of new symptoms or relapses that develop over days or weeks and usually improve partially or completely. These relapses are followed by quiet periods of disease remission that can last months or even years. … About 60 to 70 percent of people with relapsing-remitting MS eventually develop a steady progression of symptoms, with or without periods of remission, known as secondary-progressive MS.”
We recommend that you watch the video above for a full discussion of treatment options for patients with progressive MS. Here’s the bad news: Dr. Keegan explains in his short video above that “there doesn’t seem to be any medication currently available that will reliably stop progressive multiple sclerosis, slow it down, or even improve that progression” (skip to minute 10:04 to watch his synopsis in more detail). Here’s the good news: You can still help patients afflicted with this disease. Dr. Keegan continues: “the best way to help these patients is through gait assistance, walking assistance, sometimes with gait aids, sometimes with recommendations from our physical medicine and rehabilitation colleagues for spasticity.According to Dr. Keegan of the Mayo Clinic, spasticity is a severe tightness of the legs and arms due to brain and spinal cord disease...""" He adds: “generally speaking, for spasticity they [rehabilitation physicians] recommend a routine daily or twice daily stretching program as well as the occasional use of anti-spasticity medications.”
How can In Home Care help with multiple sclerosis?
As mentioned above, there are exercises and routines that can help alleviate and improve the symptoms of MS. It can be incredibly helpful to have someone come into the home to help with these movements, whether a patient is homebound or not. Typical daily in home assistance for patients suffering from MS includes:
- Walking routines and assistance
- Stretching routines and assistance
- Household chores
- Help around the home
- Help going to the restroom
How can Pennsylvania Agency of Nurses help?
Having a dedicated, trained caretaker with experience in helping those with MS can provide a lot of peace of mind. If you have a family member suffering from multiple sclerosis, Pennsylvania Agency of Nurses can help. We have a long history of faithfully aiding those individuals suffering from MS, as well as other diseases. Since many of the things you can do to reliably deal with multiple sclerosis involve in home care, we are an ideal choice for clients who need help in the vicinity of Philadelphia, PA. View our staff credentials here, or contact us to see how PAN can assist your loved one!