A multiple sclerosis diagnosis is a life-changer for anybody. Around one million Americans are currently living with MS.Treatments have improved a lot over the years. But currently, there is still no cure for this chronic disease. Understandably, one of the first questions on people’s minds is, ‘Is multiple sclerosis fatal?’ Let’s take a closer look at this question. We’ll also discuss what multiple sclerosis is and how it’s diagnosed. Plus, we’ll examine what the symptoms are and treatments currently available?
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the brain and spinal cord.
When a person has MS, their immune system attacks the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers. The brain can no longer communicate with the nervous system as easily as before.
Symptoms vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the nerve damage. Some people may have long stable periods, whereas others may gradually decline.
Currently, there is no cure for MS. It is not contagious, and it’s not inherited. However, both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to people developing the disease.
Is Multiple Sclerosis Fatal?
The answer to the question ‘Is multiple sclerosis fatal?’ is no. However, the answer is more complicated than that.
The good news is that in itself it is not a fatal condition. In fact, some people never become severely disabled by it. However, having multiple sclerosis makes people more vulnerable to other diseases and infections.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, on average MS reduces lifespans by about seven years. That said, good management of general health can help to increase life expectancy in people with MS.
Some people do deteriorate rapidly after their diagnosis and succumb to the effects of the disease. However, this is very rare.
Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
No two people have exactly the same multiple sclerosis symptoms. As you read the symptoms, you’ll note that many of them are very common symptoms. They are also symptoms in common with a wide range of other diseases.
This can make multiple sclerosis diagnosis a challenge.
The most common symptoms include:
- Bowel problems
- Bladder issues
- Difficulties when speaking or swallowing
- Vision problems
- Cognitive difficulties
- Sexual problems
- Muscle issues – spasms, stiffness, weakness
- Difficulties with walking
It’s not usual to develop all of these symptoms – most people with MS only have a few of them.
One of the most common and challenging symptoms of MS is fatigue. People experience overwhelming tiredness and may not feel able to work or carry out their daily activities.
If you notice that you’ve developed one or more of these symptoms, talk to a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t delay, as early treatment can be more successful than leaving it until the disease has developed to a more severe stage.
Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis
There’s an important way you can help your doctor with your diagnosis. Provide as much information as possible. Let them know about all the symptoms you are experiencing and their pattern.
The challenge for doctors in diagnosing MS is that there is no single definitive test. Firstly, they must rule out other conditions that could cause the same symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis usually presents in the form of attacks. After only one attack it may not be possible to make a diagnosis. If there are two separate attacks, it is more likely that you have the disease.
Your doctor will likely arrange a referral to a neurologist. They will look for indications that you have nerve damage that is consistent with multiple sclerosis.
They will perform tests to check your balance, vision, strength, coordination, and reflexes.
An MRI scan can show evidence of these attacks. It can reveal evidence of scarring in the sheath surrounding nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This is one of the most definitive ways of diagnosing multiple sclerosis.
There is more than one type of multiple sclerosis. Your neurologist will take into account the result of all of the tests, and the pattern of symptoms you have described and make a diagnosis.
It may take time, even years, for the symptoms to become more pronounced. That’s why it can take a neurologist years to make a final diagnosis.
Multiple Sclerosis Treatment
Multiple sclerosis treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and damage to nerve fibers. Early treatment is important. The risk of long-term disability is reduced if you have treatment during the early relapsing phase.
Currently, there are about 20 different drugs approved by the FDA for multiple sclerosis treatment. None of these treatments cure MS, but they can reduce the progression of the disease.
They can also reduce the damage to the brain and spinal cord. This reduces the risk of spinal cord and brain lesions.
Some of these treatments are taken as oral tablets. Others are infusions administered in a hospital or are given via injections.
Physical therapy can also help multiple sclerosis sufferers. It can help to stretch and strengthen weakened muscles. It can help people to remain independently mobile.
Muscle relaxants may help to treat the painful stiffness that many multiple sclerosis patients suffer from.
There are also lifestyle changes that you can make. These include trying to keep cool, as getting hot and hot weather can make the symptoms worse. A balanced diet also helps.
If you can, try to include regular exercise to keep your muscles toned. Swimming can be an excellent choice.
Hope for Multiple Sclerosis Sufferers
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition, but the damage can be managed with treatments that are now available. Happily, the answer to the question, ‘Is multiple sclerosis fatal?’ is no!
With good treatments and a healthy lifestyle, many people go on to live full lives after their multiple sclerosis diagnosis. The key is to engage with specialist doctors as early as possible.
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