There are three things I know about Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
- The first thing I know is that I have it;
- The 2nd thing I know is that no one knows why I have it;
- and the 3rd thing I know is that no one knows how to make it go away.
I’ve had MS for close to 20 years and during that time I have met a lot of people with a lot of opinions about the disease. Some say it is an autoimmune disease, others say it is an inflammatory disease. Some believe it is caused by a virus, others believe it is an environmental disease. You can imagine how this impacts treatment if we can’t even get agreement on the cause.
MS comes with a wide range of symptoms that when looked at in isolation can easily lead to a wrong diagnosis. Symptoms may include balance issues, dizziness, bladder dysfunction, constipation, diarrhea and incontinence, cognitive impairment, depression, dry mouth, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, fatigue, difficulty in walking, emotional incontinence, involuntary emotional expression disorder, lack of coordination, L’hermitte’s (Electric shock sensation radiating down spine with neck flexion), Bipolar Affective Disorder, optic neuritis, pain paroxysmal symptoms, sensory impairment, numbness, tingling, spasms, spasticity, tremors, Uhthoff’s phenomena (heat Intolerance), useless Hand Syndrome and weakness.
The number of symptoms one has and the order in which they appear may be different for everyone. When I had my first bout of optic neuritis the doctor asked me if I had been binge drinking the night prior. I often wonder what a doctor might think if I showed up saying I was tired, had a hard time concentrating and was depressed.
The most commonly talked about treatment for MS is medication. Different medications are prescribed depending on who you see, what your symptoms are, and what they believe about the disease. Some drugs aim at preventing inflammation, some help to decrease the severity and duration of MS relapses caused by inflammation, while others help ease specific MS related symptoms.
Although not an official treatment, it is suggested that “a balanced diet, adequate rest, and some form of regular exercise” – “in addition to medication” – “are all ways of equipping your body with what it needs to help you feel your best” (MS Society of Canada).
I am no expert on MS. I am not a doctor, a scientist, a nutritionist, a therapist or a fitness trainer. I am simply a person living with the disease. I consider myself fortunate as I have found a way to live with MS without the use of traditional medication. My treatment program is one of a balanced diet, adequate rest, and regular exercise. For me, each of these elements are designed to reduce inflammation and increase energy.