Reviewed by Andrew Seibert on December 06, 2011
Ben Thrower, MD; Neurologist and Medical Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center, Atlanta, GA. National Multiple Sclerosis Society Medline ://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/multiplesclerosis.htmlHarvard Medical Schools (Consumer Health Information):http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW/8320/21154/31523.html?d=dmtcontentTherapeutic Claims in Multiple Sclerosis, International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies, 1988 Edition.
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Narrator: Caroline Kulinski knew something was wrong when she started having vision problems. As a part time song and dance instructor for a private Atlanta high school, it made it tough to do her job.
Caroline Kulinski: There were two of everything so I was having double vision.
: Three, four, five, six
Narrator: Caroline was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It occurs when the body's immune system attacks the protective covering of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Caroline's symptoms broadened to include severe fatigue, numbness and tingling in her hands and feet and occasional memory lapses.
Caroline Kulinski: It's a very weird feeling to not have control over your body. It just does whatever it wants whether you like it or not.
Narrator: Today, most doctors immediately put patients suspected of having MS on disease modifying drugs. A class of injectable medicines that appear to reduce brain lesions and slow down the disabilities. Unfortunately, the drugs don't treat all the symptoms of MS.
: Music Don't leave her hangin'.
Narrator: Caroline, for example, is still having problems with her vision and often has to cover one eye in order to read or see detail.
Caroline Kulinski: It's, it's just scary. It's scary to be 27 years old and be faced with a potentially debilitating, disabling disease, but at the same time, I think getting on the drug as quickly as I did is a good thing. And the sooner you get the treatment, from what I'm hearing and reading and all my doctors are telling me, the better.
Narrator: Yearly treatment with these potent MS drugs can exceed fifteen thousand dollars, and like many MS patients, Caroline had to battle her insurance company to cover the cost. Not to mention the side effects.
Ben Thrower, MD: Whether it's a symptomatic medication, like something for fatigue, or it's one of the injectable drugs that we're using to stabilize their MS, the first year, I think, is one of the biggest challenges, just to get people through that.
: Singing One, two, three, four, five, six...
Narrator: Caroline tried different regimens involving several types of MS drugs before finding one that now seems to be working. She also continues to manage environmental factors that can trigger MS flares, as they are called. Things like stress and extreme heat, and for some people cold temperatures or infections. Depression is also common among MS patients.
Caroline Kulinski: And I went and got my handicapped tags and my handicapped license plates, and across the bottom is says, 'disabled person' in block letters—huge. And I'm putting it on my car and I'm standing back looking at my car and it's 'disabled person'. And that was really hard to swallow.
: There's such a lot of living...
Narrator: Treatments to clear her vision have unfortunately been unsuccessful, but Caroline has remained up-tempo about life with MS.
: Gonna run forward for wow, right?
Caroline Kulinski: And I started to learn more about it. It's well, okay, I can live with this. It won't always be great and it won't be exactly how I pictured my life, but I can do this. It's not going to take me out.
Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.