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Multiple Sclerosis: Understanding and Living
with the Disease

By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 3 of 4)

Physical therapy is an excellent method of treatment for the MS patient and one that the family can be involved with as well. Physical therapy can be done, not only under the supervision of a trained therapist, but also at home. The patientís family can also keep tabs on someoneís progress with particular exercises and pinpoint trouble spots that need additional attention or treatment.

Coping with MS:

Stress is one of the biggest enemies of MS since it can exacerbate existing symptoms or hasten the onset of new ones. Like any other chronic disease, living with MS presents challenges not only for the person who is afflicted, but for the immediate family. Since MS most often strikes persons who are very young, it may be especially difficult to learn to cope with an illness. Young people often think of themselves as immune to a chronic disease and, when faced with one, are ill-equipped to cope with the onslaught of issues that it brings.

One of the first things that can help reduce stress is to gather a strong support system. A support system can be as few as one person or as many as someoneís extended family members, colleagues, and friends. There are also support groups available to the family, and the familyís physician can be a good source for these referrals.

Another person to include in the support system is the physician and his office staff. Health professionals can provide the valuable tools a patient needs to learn to cope with MS in a positive and healthy manner. Since MS affects so many areas of the body, a team of health care professionals may be involved in providing care. It is important to keep each member of the team connected to the overall treatment plan and its effectiveness between visits. An open dialogue of these areas will help formulate and revise treatment options and keep patients and their loved ones better informed as the disease progresses.

Diet and exercise are great companions to the ongoing treatment of MS that also contribute greatly to someoneís overall sense of well-being. Exercise has been prescribed for many depressed patients and may help overcome or alleviate depression symptoms in MS patients. In addition, staying active can increase a personís motor control and keep muscles as flexible as possible. Diet should be discussed with a nutritionist and can help keep weight down and alleviate bowel issues that can also be associated with MS.

Many young couples find that their sex life is greatly diminished by MS, although it is not certain whether or not it is a direct or indirect side effect of the disease. Since sexual arousal originates in the central nervous system, the body may not always send the appropriate signals during times of intimacy. As a result, sex drive may be diminished, orgasm may be difficult to achieve, and there may be a host of other issues. In addition, fatigue (both physical and mental) may play a significant role in the loss of overall sex drive. Couples who find that these issues are beginning to take a toll on their relationship should talk openly about it and find effective ways to communicate about their sex life, despite MS and its troubling side effects.

Finding Support:

The first place that patients tend to look for support is through their health community. While this is an excellent resource and the most trusted place for medical advice, it may not be the best place to find emotional support. There are a variety of community-based organizations that can help with ongoing issues.


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