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Multiple Sclerosis: Understanding and Living
with the Disease

By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 4)

Sensory Ė many MS patients report intermittent issues with numbness or tingling. There may also be issues with sensitivity to heat or cold.

Bladder Ė constipation and even loss of bladder function can develop. Urinary tract infections may be present, especially recurrent infections.

Cognitive Ė trouble concentrating or memory issues may be present. Depression is also common in MS patients. Physicians arenít certain if the depression is caused by the MS or is a by-product of the patientís coping mechanisms with the disease.

Fatigue Ė patients may report moderate to severe fatigue.

Types of MS:

As with many diseases, there are several types of MS that have been identified. The most common type is Relapsing-Remitting or Exacerbating MS. This type of MS affects approximately 85 percent of people who have been diagnosed with the disease. It continually baffles researchers since there seems to be no rhyme or reason for a personís relapse. Symptoms may come and go repeatedly over a long period of time and may not worsen. The patient may take several days, weeks, or even months to recover from a particular episode. Some symptoms may even disappear completely and not recur for extended periods of time.

Primary-Progressive MS is seen in a markedly less percentage (around 10 percent) of those who have been diagnosed. Symptoms in this type of MS more than likely worsen over time and new symptoms may appear as well. Persons who develop MS after the age of 40 are more likely to have Primary-Progressive MS. There isnít a definite relapse and recovery perio.

Secondary-Progressive MS appears after the Relapsing-Remiting stage and the patient sees that symptoms appear to worsen over time without any type of recovery at all. The decline may take years to be noticeable.

The fourth type of MS is Progressive-Relapsing. It is the least common form of MS. Patientís symptoms steadily decline or worsen and while there may be some recovery, although it is not likely.

Treating MS:

There are several methods used to treat MS, although none of them will completely cure the disease. Since MS is often a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that other diseases that could have similar occurrences of symptoms have been ruled out, it can be difficult to treat just one area of the disease. Often the treatments that are given combat only specific symptoms, such as bladder issues, and not just the MS itself.

There are some medications designed to treat only the MS-related symptoms. Drugs that are designed to target the breakdown in myelin may reduce flare-ups and decrease the intensity of these attacks for a period of time. They may also become less effective over time. Clinical trials can be a good way to find out about the latest medications being studied.

Other drugs are used to keep the person with MS functioning as well as possible. These drugs can include medications like corticosteroids to reduce swelling in muscles and joints. There are quite a few serious side effects of using corticosteroids on an ongoing basis, so physicians generally prescribe these during acute flare-ups. Other medications may be used to reduce muscle spasms and preserve muscle elasticity.


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