5 Myths and Facts About Multiple Sclerosis
Myth: You shouldn't exercise if you have MS.
"Actually, you should exercise if you have MS," McCoyd says. Physical activity is good for your overall health and can help you manage MS symptoms.
Exercise improves strength, endurance, and balance. It also helps:
- Bowel function
- Overall quality of life
But there are special considerations. "Becoming overheated while exercising can worsen symptoms of MS," says Daniel Bandari, MD. Bandari is the medical director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center of California and Research Group in Newport Beach, Calif.
Stay cool by taking frequent breaks. Try to exercise in the morning, when it's not too hot.
Your exercise program should be tailored to your abilities and limitations. It may need to be adjusted when your symptoms change. You can get help in putting together a routine from a physical therapist who has experience with MS patients.
Myth: You have to stop working if you have MS.
If you've just been diagnosed, don't jump to the conclusion that you should stop working. Well-meaning friends and family may suggest that you avoid the strains of work and stay home and rest. But there's no need to "make a career" of MS, Kalb says.
"People who quit work to avoid the stress quickly find that being unemployed brings its own set of stresses," she says. "And life without the stimulation of work and the relationships with fellow workers can feel very empty."
The fact is, most people retire with MS, not from it, McCoyd says.
Myth: MS is a deadly disease
The life expectancy of people with MS is very close to that of the general population, Kalb says. "Most people with MS die from cancer, heart disease, or stroke, just like everyone else."
In rare cases, patients with very severe disability may die prematurely of complications such as pneumonia. But you can prevent most complications by treating your MS symptoms and getting regular preventive health care.
"One other important risk factor for early death in MS is undiagnosed and untreated depression," she says, "which can lead to suicide."
If you have significant mood changes, talk to your doctor.