Living with multiple sclerosis means living with uncertainty. The course of the disease is very difficult for doctors to predict. Some people live with MS for years without suffering serious symptoms. Others may rapidly become disabled. Why the course of the disease varies so widely remains unclear. One thing is certain. Most people with MS experience periodic relapses, also called flare-ups or attacks. These can be mild or severe. They may show up in many different ways. Symptoms can include:
Most MS symptoms can also be caused by other conditions like Lyme disease, genetic disorders, and infections. They can also be brought on by a lack of vitamin B12. Because there's no one test for MS, your doctor needs to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms before giving you an MS diagnosis.
3. Will I have new symptoms? Will they get worse over time?
MS symptoms can range from numbness and tiredness to pain and problems walking. Every person has different symptoms, and they can change over time. Fortunately, most symptoms can be managed with medicine, rehab, and other treatment.
4. What can I do at home to manage my symptoms?
Dealing with stress -- through yoga or other relaxation exercises -- may help ease your symptoms. If heat makes your symptoms worse, find ways to keep cool:
Use an air conditioner or fan in your house or car.
Open a window or use a fan when showering, and don't use very warm water.
Keep a spray bottle handy to mist yourself.
Drink chilled water or juices, and avoid caffeine.
5. What drugs and other treatments do you recommend for me?
There are many drugs that help stop your MS from getting worse, treat flare-ups when they happen, and ease your symptoms. Different types of rehab, like physical therapy, can help you at home and work. Rehab will let you focus on any problems you have getting around, or issues with speech, swallowing, or memory.
6. How will I know if the drugs are working?
Sometimes the side effects from a drug make you feel like the drugs aren't working -- or that they make you feel worse. That's why it's important to keep talking to your doctor. Together, you can figure out if the drugs are working or if you need to try a new one. Never stop taking medicine without talking to your doctor first.
7. What side effects should I expect, and how should I handle them?
Side effects vary from drug to drug and person to person. They can include flu-like symptoms, headache, diarrhea, and skin irritation if you take the medicine as a shot. Call your doctor if you have symptoms. Together, you can decide how to treat them, or change your medication.