MS: What you need to know…
More than 7,000 Irish people live with multiple sclerosis.
A neurological condition affecting nerves in the brain and spinal cord, MS causes problems with muscle movement, balance and vision.
Each nerve fibre in the brain and spinal cord is surrounded by a layer of protein called myelin, which protects the nerve and helps electrical signals from the brain travel to the rest of the body. In MS, the myelin becomes damaged.
People can have different symptoms at different times and, although some are very common, there is no typical pattern that applies to everyone.
A problem with vision, known as optic neuritis, is one of the more obvious early symptoms, but this is often because it is a more “concrete” symptom, as opposed to “vague” neurological symptoms like numbness or tingling. You shouldn’t assume that these symptoms are a sign of MS – not everyone who experiences them will go on to get an MS diagnosis.
Other physical symptoms of MS might commonly include balance problems and dizziness, fatigue, bladder problems and stiffness and/or spasms.
Only a neurologist can diagnose MS. Remember to make an appointment with your GP about any symptom that worries you.
Medical treatments for MS concentrate on managing symptoms, reducing inflammation during relapses or changing the course of the disease in some way with disease-modifying drugs. The use and benefit of these treatments differ from person to person due to the unpredictable nature of MS and the variance in the presence, severely and duration of symptoms.
A healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet, regular exercise and the reduction of stress can also help.
You can get more information from MS Ireland at www.ms-society.ie or from the MS helpline on 1850 233233.