Receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) is understandably overwhelming. Fortunately, life with MS today is far different than it once was, thanks to several new treatment methods that help patients manage symptoms effectively. If you have been newly diagnosed with MS, here’s what you can do to cope with your diagnosis and stay in control of your health.
Learn as Much as You Can
The uncertainty can be among the most difficult aspects of being newly diagnosed. The more you know about MS, the better prepared you’ll be for any changes you experience.
Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks the myelin, or protective coating around the nerve fibers throughout the spinal cord and brain. As the myelin is destroyed and replaced by scar tissue, many symptoms involving the central nervous system develop.
With that said, it’s possible to maintain a good quality of life with MS, and the condition is almost never fatal. Organizations like the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) have many resources to help you learn more.
Pursue a Definitive Diagnosis
Due to the broad spectrum of symptoms—many of which can mimic other conditions—MS can be challenging to diagnose. Moreover, there is no single test that can definitively diagnose MS; instead, data from several tests are often needed, including an MRI, neurological assessment, and spinal tap.
A doctor must rule out any other possible conditions and find evidence of damage in two distinct areas of the central nervous system which have occurred at least a month apart for a firm diagnosis. This step is important, as it will allow you to pursue the proper channels for treatment.
Understand the Nature of MS Symptoms
MS symptoms can span far and wide and be unpredictable in nature. Your MS may not look the same as someone else’s. Common symptoms include pain or tingling, slurred speech, fatigue, dizziness, memory issues, and vision changes, among others. You may find that some symptoms are only temporary, while others last longer.
Seek Prompt Treatment
The type of treatment you pursue will depend on the severity of your symptoms and your current overall condition. With that being said, many doctors recommend starting treatment right away, as some therapies may delay the progression of the disease and reduce symptom severity.
Track Symptoms & Triggers
While symptoms can be unpredictable, tracking them is important to help your healthcare team determine whether treatments are working as they should. Newly diagnosed patients can benefit from starting a daily journal of their symptoms. You might also jot down notes about the day’s conditions, which could help to pinpoint triggers. For instance, some people find that stress, heat, and infection can lead to flare-ups or relapses.
Partner with the Right Doctor
It’s important to find the right specialist to help you treat your MS, being that it’s a lifelong condition. Your doctor should welcome any questions you have, help you understand your treatment options, and make you feel comfortable. The NMSS website offers a database of doctors who specialize in MS so you can choose one who’s local to you.
Explore Alternative Medicine
While medications are an important part of controlling the symptoms and progression of MS, you might also want to try complementary or alternative medicine. For example, some patients find relief with non-drug treatments such as supplements, acupuncture, and massage. The NMSS is also advocating for research in innovative therapies such as stem cell therapy to further alleviate symptoms and prevent disease progression, with the potential to even repair some tissue damage that has already occurred. If you are interested in learning more contact a care coordinator today for a free assessment!