Myths and Facts About Relapsing-Remitting MS

When you first learn you have relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), well-meaning friends and family may pass along misleading info about your condition. Make sure you get the facts and stay clear of the many myths that surround the disease.

Myth: RMMS Is Inherited

While there do seem to be genes that can make it more likely that you could have relapsing- remitting MS, it's not an inherited condition that can be directly passed from a parent to a child.

There are other things that need to happen, though experts don't fully understand those yet, to cause someone to have MS. So, if you have RRMS, the chance that your child would also get it is small.

Myth: RMMS Usually Causes Paralysis

With better and better treatments available, most people with MS are able to walk and do their normal activities for decades or more.

Some people may eventually need an assistive device, such as a cane, walker, or wheelchair, to help them avoid fatigue or stay mobile.

Myth: RMMS Is Contagious

You cannot catch MS  -- the way you do a cold -- or give it to someone else. Though the exact cause of MS isn't clear, experts do know that it comes from some combination of genes and triggers.

Some suspected triggers have to do with things in the environment (MS is less common in very sunny areas) and viruses.

Myth: A Special Diet Can Prevent Flares

You may have read about special diets that are recommended to "treat" your MS, but there is no research that shows that a particular kind of meal plan will prevent flares or treat your symptoms.

Focus instead on having a low-fat, high-fiber diet, which is actually the same diet recommended for most people. Getting fats rich in omega-3 fatty acids from fish and nuts is also a better choice than animal fats, which are saturated fats.

Getting too few vitamins and minerals can make your symptoms worse, though, which is why a diet focused on whole foods and fewer processed foods is a good idea. 

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Myth: You Should Not Exercise

Exercise can play an important role in staying strong and keeping yourself mobile when you are living with MS.

Research shows that exercise can lessen your symptoms, even helping with things like bladder and bowel control.

The best exercises for people living with MS include aerobic activities that raise your heart rate like walking or swimming, daily stretching, and strength training.

One thing that's important to do is make sure you drink enough water during and after workouts, since being overheated or dehydrated can temporarily make your symptoms worse.

Myth: You Shouldn't Get Pregnant

Having MS does not have to affect your decision to have a baby. MS does not make it harder for you to get pregnant, and some women find that their MS symptoms actually get better during pregnancy.

But there are a few things to know and discuss with your doctor. Many MS medications are not safe to take during pregnancy, which may mean that you need to switch or stop medications before trying to become pregnant.

Some women have flares of their disease in the 3 to 6 months after delivering their baby. And having MS can increase the chance that your baby could be born at a smaller weight than average.

Also, vaginal birth can be difficult if you have muscle control or nerve issues in your pelvis area. That may explain why women with MS have a slightly higher chance of delivering by C-section.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on March 19, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry: "Time matters in multiple sclerosis: can early treatment and long-term follow-up ensure everyone benefits from the latest advances in multiple sclerosis?"

National MS Society: "Disease-modifying Therapies for MS."

Multiple Sclerosis Trust: "MS: The facts."

Christopher Reeve and Dana Reeve Foundation: "Multiple Sclerosis."

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Diet and nutrition," "Multiple Sclerosis: FAQs," "What is MS?" "Pregnancy and Reproductive Issues."

Mayo Clinic: "Is there a multiple sclerosis diet?" "Multiple Sclerosis."

UPenn Medicine, Neuroscience Blog: "Multiple Sclerosis and Exercise: Why MS Patients Should Stay Active."

March of Dimes: "Multiple Sclerosis and Pregnancy."

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