Health and well­be­ing

Public Sector Manager - - Contents -

Liv­ing with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis

Mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, known as MS, is a con­di­tion that sel­dom grabs the head­lines. Yet it is an un­pre­dictable and at times dis­abling dis­ease of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem that af­fects more than 2.5-mil­lion

peo­ple the world over.

Mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis is not a con­ta­gious dis­ease, and it is not hered­i­tary, so where does it come from? The ex­act causes of MS are not com­pletely known, although re­cent re­search has brought us closer to un­der­stand­ing many of the mys­ter­ies of the dis­ease.

Mount­ing ev­i­dence sug­gests a link be­tween MS and ex­po­sure to the Ep­stein Barr virus, the virus that causes glan­du­lar fever. Re­searchers have found that pa­tients with MS carry a pop­u­la­tion of im­mune cells that over­re­act to Ep­stein-Barr virus, with some peo­ple par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to de­vel­op­ing MS.

Ge­net­ics also seems to play a role in the devel­op­ment of MS. So too does a lack of vi­ta­min D, which is man­u­fac­tured in the hu­man body af­ter ex­po­sure to ul­travi­o­let ra­di­a­tion from the sun's rays.

A dis­ease of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem

Ac­cord­ing to Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis South Africa, the dis­ease at­tacks the myelin sheath, which pro­tects the nerves in the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem. The at­tack leaves be­hind many scle­roses, or scars – hence, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

This can af­fect nerves any­where in the body, and in­ter­rupts the flow of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the brain and the body, which is why those suf­fer­ing from the dis­ease can de­velop such a range of im­pair­ments.

MS is a dis­ease char­ac­terised by

loss of feel­ing and loss of con­trol of parts of the body.

The con­se­quences can be dev­as­tat­ing, as the dis­ease at­tacks the brain, spinal cord and nerves of the eye, caus­ing phys­i­cal de­bil­i­ta­tion and a num­ber of dif­fer­ent types of dis­abil­i­ties.

Just how much dis­abil­ity a per­son will ex­pe­ri­ence from MS, and when, is largely un­pre­dictable, like so much else about this dis­ease.

Most peo­ple with MS ex­pe­ri­ence oc­ca­sional re­lapses that tend to ad­vance the progress of the dis­ease. How­ever, pa­tients may live for many years with­out their con­di­tion de­te­ri­o­rat­ing.


As the dis­ease pro­gresses, those suf­fer­ing from the con­di­tion may ex­pe­ri­ence se­vere fa­tigue and loss of mo­bil­ity.

Be­ing de­pen­dent on others for help and con­stantly hav­ing to ask for as­sis­tance can be dev­as­tat­ing and de­press­ing. Un­der these cir­cum­stances, or for a time just af­ter a se­vere re­lapse, peo­ple with MS can en­hance their in­de­pen­dence with the use of a wheel­chair.

One se­ri­ous con­se­quence of the pub­lic's mis­un­der­stand­ing of MS has a huge im­pact on how peo­ple cope with the dis­ease.

Be­cause em­ploy­ers in par­tic­u­lar don't re­alise that a per­son with MS has a good life ex­pectancy, and can be helped by mod­ern drugs to re­main pro­duc­tive, pa­tients are afraid to tell em­ploy­ers that they have MS as they fear they will lose their jobs.

This se­crecy may re­sult in feel­ings of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety for the per­son who has MS.

Peo­ple with MS must not be scared to seek help from the start. MS is not that com­mon, but there are still many suf­fer­ers. It is also im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that be­cause there is no cure it does not mean that there is no treat­ment.


One fi­nal fac­tor which may im­pact on your emo­tional state if you have MS is the un­der­stand­ing of friends and fam­ily. MS peo­ple need help when they ask for it but, most of all, they need the af­fir­ma­tion that they will be treated as or­di­nary hu­man be­ings.

Aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing of the dis­ease by the gen­eral pub­lic will help every­one with MS, and the peo­ple who live with them and care about them.

GEMS can help you to get more in­for­ma­tion on your health­care needs. Phone the call cen­tre on 0860 00 4367 and GEMS will as­sist you in ev­ery way pos­si­ble to en­sure your fam­ily's health and well­be­ing.

The signs of mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis Early symp­toms of MS may in­clude the fol­low­ing. Strange sen­sa­tions in the limbs – tin­gling, numb­ness, itch­ing and pain. Loss of vi­sion in one eye. Dou­ble vi­sion. Sud­denly los­ing bal­ance or hav­ing dif­fi­culty walk­ing....

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