My cousin suffers with multiple sclerosis (MS)… I only found out about her illness in the past year, even though she was diagnosed almost 15 years ago.
And that’s the story of many MS sufferers — they live what appear to be “normal” lives while suffering in silence with debilitating symptoms like vision problems, fatigue, chronic pain, depression, muscle weakness and bladder problems, to mention but a few.
Multiple sclerosis is the most widespread disabling neurological condition around the world and it’s estimated that it affects more than 2.5 million people across the globe.
However, solid numbers are hard to come by. In the US for instance, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doctors are not required to report new cases, and because symptoms can be completely “invisible”, the number of Americans suffering with the condition can only be estimated.
Researchers still don’t fully understand the causes of MS or why the rate of progression is so difficult to determine. The good news is that many people with MS don’t become severely disabled and most have a normal or near-normal lifespan.
MS symptoms are unpredictable and they vary considerably. No two people have exactly the same symptoms, and each person’s symptoms can change or fluctuate over time. One person might experience only one or two possible symptoms while another person experiences many more.
My cousin, for instance, struggles with what doctors call “clinically significant pain”, along with digestive problems, swallowing problems, vision problems, tremors and headaches on a daily basis. Then there is the hair loss, cognitive changes and depression.
As a 39 year old mother of two pre-teens, running a thriving private business, I cannot even begin to imagine how she copes.
But she does. And when I asked her how she manages getting through each day without losing her beautiful smile and positive attitude she said: “I had to adapt very quickly and not fight back at this disease but at the same time I have to try every day not to allow it to slow me down.”
It was while I was doing more research on MS that I came across a few websites that I thought provided excellent resources for people (families, loved ones and sufferers) affected by MS:
The take-home message I got from all three of these websites is that one of the most important things people affected by this disease can do is to connect with other MS sufferers.
Sharing stories and tips on how to cope with some of the symptoms not only provides support but it also creates a sense of community… and because many MS symptoms are considered “invisible”, knowing that there are other people out there who understand what you are going through can make the world of difference.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
Multiple Sclerosis by the Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You, published online, healthline.com