Got questions about Multiple Sclerosis? We have you covered.
Most of us are familiar with the chronic disease, Multiple Sclerosis or MS. MS is a chronic, autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. But what do we really know about it?
What are some of the symptoms? How does the disease affect people? What percentage of the population have MS? Is MS treatable? How do people manage the condition?
We are all about supporting those living with the disease daily, and the more we know, the more we can help.
Join us on our fact-finding mission today as we answer ten common questions about Multiple Sclerosis.
Why is understanding MS essential?
More than 25,600 Australians live with MS, with more than ten Australians being diagnosed with the disease every week.
By improving our understanding and awareness of MS, we become empowered to provide better supports, have meaningful conversations and become more inclusive as a community.
Your Questions about MS answered
# 1 – What symptoms do people with MS experience?
The symptoms of MS are varied and unpredictable, depending on which part of the central nervous system is affected and to what degree.
Symptoms may vary from day-to-day and symptoms can also interact with each other. The symptoms of MS can be both visible and invisible to others.
Some of the most common MS symptoms involve:
- Extreme tiredness
- Blurred or double vision
- Difficulties with walking, balance or coordination
- Altered muscle tone
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Tingling, numbness or pins and needles
- Sensitivity to heat and cold
- Bladder and bowel changes
- Mood changes
- Sexual changes
- Changes in concentration, memory and slurring speech
# 2 – What group of people are typically diagnosed with MS?
The average age of diagnosis for MS suffers is 20 – 40 years old. However, it can occur in children as well as other adults.
Women are two to three times more likely to develop MS than men. It is not known why this is the case. However, recent research suggests that changes in women’s lifestyles in recent decades may contribute to the risk of developing the condition.
- First pregnancies are now occurring later in life.
- There is the increased use of hormonal contraception
- A lower rate of childbirth
- Higher employment
- Higher smoking rates
# 3 – Why is MS sometimes called an ‘invisible disease.’
MS is an ‘invisible disease’ because many symptoms are not immediately apparent to other people. Examples of some invisible symptoms could include
- Sight problems
- Anxiety or depression
- Bladder symptoms
- Bowel difficulties
- Sexual issues
So how do you know if someone with MS is experiencing these symptoms?
If you are the friend, family member or colleague of someone with MS, you could make a difference by:
- Asking open questions like “How are you feeling today?” This gives them the chance to respond in their own way and provide detail if they would like to.
- Avoid saying comments like “You look so good!” as often people with MS look well on the outside despite experiencing invisible symptoms.
- Learning about invisible symptoms for better understanding.
- Being supportive. MS is a complex condition where different people experience different symptoms.
# 4 – Are there are different types of MS?
Yes, there are three types of Multiple Sclerosis.
Relapsing-remitting MS, the most common form of MS consisting of attacks of symptoms (called relapses) followed by periods of recovery (called remissions).
Secondary progressive MS (SPMS) is a secondary phase of relapsing-remitting MS that can develop years to decades following the initial onset of relapsing symptoms. Symptoms are steady without relapses or remissions.
Primary progressive MS (PPMS) gradually worsens over time with no defined bouts of symptoms and little or no remissions.
# 5 – Is MS contagious?
MS isn’t infectious or contagious, so you can’t catch it or pass it on to others.
The cause of MS is unknown. It’s thought that genes make up around half the risk of getting MS. No gene directly causes the condition itself, and someone with MS may have a combination of many of these genes.
Other factors that may increase the risk of developing MS include:
- Exposure to certain viruses or bacteria
- Geographical location (areas farther from the equator have higher rates of MS)
- Lower vitamin D levels
# 6 – Do people with MS always need a wheelchair?
Many people living with MS can walk unassisted, while a smaller number need the help of a mobility aid or wheelchair.
# 7 – Is MS is a fatal disease?
Statistics show that most people with MS have a near-normal life span.
Most deaths associated with MS are due to complications in advanced, progressive stages of the disease. Early treatment is aimed to slow down the disease progression and help prevent those complications. That said, very severe cases of MS certainly can shorten a patient’s life span.
# 8 – If you have MS, is it OK to exercise?
It was once believed that if you were diagnosed with MS, you should not exercise, with some doctors believing it would bring on MS symptoms.
However, exercise can help improve mobility and balance, which are essential when you have MS. Staying active and healthy can also decrease fatigue, another typical symptom of MS.
An exercise and activity plan developed with a health care provider should allow someone with MS to partake in exercise.
# 9 – Can a person with MS access NDIS Funding?
People with MS with a disability aged under 65 right across Australia can apply for a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) package.
More than 400 people living with MS across Australia have become participants of the NDIS.
Eligibility is not limited to people with mobility issues. The NDIS will assess the functional impact of your condition. This can include:
- Heat sensitivity
- Brain fog
- Cognition changes
- Any other MS symptoms that impact your day-to-day life and your ability to complete everyday tasks and activities.
# 10 – If I have MS, what supports could I receive using my NDIS Funding?
To be considered reasonable and necessary, a support must:
- Be related to your disability.
- Not include day-to-day living costs unrelated to your disability support needs.
- Represent value for money.
- Be likely to be effective and beneficial to the participant, and
- Take informal support given to participants by families, carers, networks, and the community into account.
Eligible supports may include one-on-one support to participate in physical activity such as going to the gym, yoga or swimming.
You may also need supports to purchase groceries, attend TAFE or university or enjoy a social event.
We hope that this blog has increased your knowledge of MS, the support available and small ways to be more aware or help people living with the disease.
Lifely provides a range of disability supports to make the everyday better. Call us today on 03 5441 1599 or contact us via our website to find out how we can help you.