Getting a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) is a scary moment. It’s a chronic neurological disease that’s difficult to diagnose and has no predictable pattern of progression. Someone with a definitive diagnosis of MS may only experience mild problems throughout their life while others will progress towards disability. A diagnosis of MS doesn’t always mean that it’s impossible to live a full life, but it can cause someone to become disabled to the point they can’t work. In the event that the disease progresses to the point where an individual can’t work, the diagnosis can help an individual qualify for SSD in order to keep receiving income. Multiple sclerosis is different for everyone and maintaining a reasonable quality of life requires working closely with physicians to monitor and treat the symptoms.

The Signs and Symptoms of MS

The signs that you might have multiple sclerosis are sometimes vague and hard to pin down due to the fact they’re also found in other neurological diseases. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Difficulties walking
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities, body, or face
  • Muscle weakness
  • Spasticity primarily in the legs
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Pain and/or itching

All of these symptoms are found in other neurological diseases which makes the diagnosis of MS more difficult. Someone who is experiencing any of the above symptoms should seek a medical opinion as soon as possible. Permanent nerve damage is possible in the early stages and prevention of said damage is important to retain functionality.

Getting a Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis

Testing is required to exclude other potential causes of MS due to the fact the symptoms are also found in other neurological diseases. The tests themselves are usually done quickly due to the need to find a definitive diagnosis so the patient can get comfort in the knowledge that they’re not dealing with a mystery disease. However, some individuals have to undergo further testing because the initial results were inconclusive. 

Currently, there are no definitive symptoms of MS that can make a positive diagnosis of the disease. A physician has to follow specific criteria for diagnosis which includes:

  • Finding damage in two different places on the central nervous system
  • Locate evidence that the damage occurred at different times
  • Eliminate all other diagnoses

How MS Affects the Functions of the Body

MS is caused by the body attacking the protective myelin sheath that covers the nerves and causes what are known as lesions. These lesions are found on the spinal cord and in the brain and affect different parts of the body depending on where they’re located. A lesion at the back of the brain may affect coordination and balance while a lesion on the spinal cord can make walking difficult. Lesions interrupt the signal coming from or going to that nerve and makes it difficult to perform a simple function. 

Multiple sclerosis can be a debilitating disease for the sufferer and make it difficult for an individual to perform the daily routines of life. Going to work becomes a challenge because of the loss of control over parts of the body. For some sufferers, Social Security disability is an option as MS is one of the conditions that help someone with qualifying for SSD

Treating MS With Medication

Medical science has come up with a variety of treatments for MS. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a number of medications that are classified as disease-modifying therapies as there is no cure for MS. Drugs include Avonex, Aubagio, Lemtrada, and Tysabri. Some are infused while others are injectable or taken orally. Medications that are currently on the market are designed to slow progression, restrict new activity from the disease, and reduce relapses. Steroids, which have long been used in the treatment of MS, are mainly used to treat flare-ups and alleviate discomfort.

Living a Full Life After a Diagnosis of MS

A diagnosis of MS doesn’t mean that quality of life drastically changes. In fact, many people with MS manage to live full lives by taking care of themselves, exercising, eating well, and making sure to keep their mind engaged in stimulating activities. It’s important to take care of the body and keep it strong in order to minimize the damage done by MS. Always consult with a physician before undertaking new activities in order to get the guidance of what to do and what not to do.

Muscle weakness is one of the hallmarks of MS, but it can be managed through regular exercise or physical therapy. A physician can make the evaluation to determine if a patient should engage in physical therapy or if a regular exercise program is sufficient. Keeping muscles strong can help with overcoming the challenges that MS creates.

How Employers can Help Employees With MS

An employee might not want to tell their employer that they’ve been diagnosed with MS because of the issues that knowledge can cause in the workplace. However, disclosure is the best policy even if no special accommodations are needed. There may come a time when an employee needs to invoke the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and take advantage of the protections offered by the act. Someone who’s employed at a non-physical job may not need much in the way of accommodation while someone who has an active job may require additional accommodation throughout the workday. 

Smartphone Apps for MS That Help Manage Symptoms

Smartphones apps for MS help support the individual after a diagnosis. Many are created by organizations that include the National MS Society, Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, and Healthline. One app, CareZone, helps with medication management and reminders for doctor’s appointments. EDSS Calculator is an app that helps you track your Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDDS) score and helps create a baseline for the progression of the disease. Last but not least, MS Buddy is a messenger program that connects MS patients with one another and provides a supportive environment. 

Receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis won’t prevent someone from living their life as they see fit as long as they seek medical treatment and focus on staying healthy. MS is a difficult disease to diagnose and treat, but science is making strides when it comes to lessening its effects. Medications, lifestyle modifications, and regular checkups with physicians can help keep the body function and live a full life.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Will My MS Diagnosis Keep Me From Living A Full Life?," in Medicalopedia, April 1, 2019, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/7376/will-my-ms-diagnosis-keep-me-from-living-a-full-life/].