What is Multiple Sclerosis? Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease which effects the central nervous system. For reasons unknown to allopathic medicine, the body's immune system, which is designed to attack invading viruses and bacteria, starts attacking the lining around the nerve fibers. This protective coating, called myelin, is damaged, or destroyed, leaving scar tissue or 'sclerosis' behind. Myelin is made up of primarily fatty tissue and it's purpose is to protect and insulate nerve fibers. Myelin helps keep the nerve signals intact and ensures they get where they are supposed to go, much like the insulating coating around electrical wires. Without functional myelin the nerve fibers can not carry electrical impulses through the body properly. The result of this damage can range from mild tremors to total paralysis, and everything in between, depending on the extent and location of the damage. There are four major types of Multiple Sclerosis. Relapsing, Remitting MS is the type most people are initially diagnosed with. This type of MS occurs in flare-ups and remissions. The patient may be symptom free for months and then suddenly lose feeling in a limb or have problems keeping their balance. Primary Progressive MS worsens slowly and steadily over time The patient does not have periods of remission or flare -- ups, but the disease continues to progress slowly. Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis starts out as the Relapsing, Remitting type. Over time the person stops having remissions or flare- ups and the disease starts to progress at a steady rate. The most rare type of Multiple Sclerosis is called Progressive-Relapsing. With this type of MS disease progression is constant and steady, but the person will experience definite acute flare-ups. Whichever type of Multiple Sclerosis a person has, there are treatments offered by both allopathic and alternative medicine to ease symptoms and possibly slow the progression of the disease. Who gets Multiple Sclerosis? Fifty years ago Multiple Sclerosis was virtually unheard of. Today, there are approximately 2.5 million people worldwide afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis. According to the National MS Society, 200 people are diagnosed with the disease every day. Multiple Sclerosis is most commonly diagnosed in people between 20 and 50 years of age. However, 5 % of MS patients are under the age of 21, and many people who are diagnoses later show symptoms as early as 15 or 16 years of age. There are several cases of children diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Approximately 10% of all those with MS received there diagnosis after the age of 50. The youngest person with Multiple Sclerosis was diagnoses at the age of 10 years. People of any ethnic group can develop Multiple Sclerosis, but it is more common in those of Northern European decent. MS does develop in Americans of African, Asian, and Hispanic decent, although it is very rare. According the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, Canada has the highest prevalence of MS in the world, with 240 diagnosed cases of MS per every 100,000 people. This is followed by Germany, with 149 cases per 100,000 people. The United States, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Great Britain and Norway average 97.5 -- 143.5 documented cases per 100,000 people. India has the lowest incidence of Multiple Sclerosis in the entire world, with 3 confirmed cases per 100,000 people. Worldwide, women are 50% more likely to develop Multiple Sclerosis than men. Multiple Sclerosis is not directly inherited, a parent with MS cannot pass it on to their children. There have been documented cases of identical twins where one twin develops Multiple Sclerosis and the other does not. However, it has been shown that a person is more likely to develop the disease if a close relative also has it. Medical scientists think there may be a genetic predisposition to the development of Multiple Sclerosis. How is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed? For the majority of people, getting that final diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis is both a relief and a nightmare. The diagnosis comes as a relief because, oftentimes, the person has experienced odd, seemingly disconnected symptoms for several years before it finally has a name. Many are confused and scared by the strange numbness, weakness or other neurological symptoms, which seem to come and go at random. For many final diagnosis is reassurance for themselves they are not losing their minds and proof to their family they are not faking illness. There is no definitive test for MS. A diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis is made only after eliminating all other possibilities and explanations for the patient's symptoms. There is, however a uniform criteria which must be met for a diagnosis of "definite MS." Even if the MRI, lumbar puncture and V.E.P all suggest MS, this criteria must be met before the final diagnosis can be made. That requirement is as follows, 'Two different areas of the central nervous system are affected, and that these effects have been experienced on at least two separate occasions of at least one month apart and that the person is within the normal age range for the onset of MS' At the first visit with your neurologist, he/she will take a complete medical history and will ask you to describe, in detail, the physical problems. It is important to tell everything, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Symptoms the patient has gotten used to ignoring, such as fleeting pain and restless legs are important. The neurologist will then do a full neuro exam. He/she will test reflexes, check eyes, balance and coordination, as well as check for muscle weakness in the extremities and changes in the eyes. After that is completed, most neurologists will order an MRI of the brain and spine, and a visual evoked potential. Some doctors will order a lumbar puncture at this time, but others will wait for the MRI to come back. Causes of Multiple Sclerosis No one knows what causes Multiple Sclerosis. There is no cure. However, medical researchers know that Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. Something causes the body's immune system to go into over drive and attack healthy tissues in the body. In the case of MS, the myelin around the nerve cells is attacked. There are several theories as to what causes the immune system to rev itself up. Many of these theories are controversial and not supported by standard, allopathic medicine. Many people in alternative medicine believe MS is caused by toxins in our food and environment. Mercury fillings and food additives such as MSG are at the top of that list. There are people who have had reduction in symptoms by having fillings removed or changing their diet to eliminate all foods that contain MSG. Other people think MS is caused by an over growth of bacteria in the body. The theory is that the body's immune system works too hard to fight off these bacteria and it starts attacking healthy tissue, as well. There is some anecdotal evidence that this may be the case in some people. Some people think MS is caused by being exposed to the EPV virus in childhood. This is the virus that causes mononucleosis, and Epstein Bar. It is thought the EPV virus could stay dormant in the system. Those who support this theory say that the EPV virus replicates itself similar to myelin, and the body's immune system can not tell the difference. Still others believe lack of nutrition causes the immune system to malfunction and attack healthy tissue in the body. These people maintain that over the centuries the minerals have been leeched out of the soil we use to grow food, and that genetic engineering of food products has reduced or made vitamins and minerals biochemically unavailable to our bodies. This group advocates organic, raw food and whole food supplements. What ever your theory about the causes of multiple sclerosis, it is important that both medical researchers and the general population continue to research the causes of the disease so that we can find a cure or and effective preventive plan. What are the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis? Multiple Sclerosis is like a snowflake. No two cases are the same. Every person has different symptoms and many times symptoms for one person will even vary from day to day. Which symptoms a person shows depends entirely on where in the Central Nervous System the myelin is damaged, and how severe that damage is. Vision disturbances are a very common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis. Things like blurred vision, optic neuritis, double vision and involuntary rapid eye movements are very common, and usually clear up either with or without treatment. Total vision loss is possible, but very rare. The most well recognized MS symptoms are those that effect coordination and movement. Many people have tremors, loss of balance, dizziness or vertigo, coordination loss and trouble walking due to weakness or numbness of the legs. Cognitive difficulties such as trouble concentrating, short term memory loss and difficulty reasoning. Emotions can be effected, also. In addition, the person with MS may experience tingling or numbness of any part of their body, a sensation similar to that of limb that has been a sleep, burning, or a needle like pain, anywhere in the body. Some people experience facial pain and muscle pain. Fatigue is the most common symptom among those with MS. MS fatigue is different than just being tired, the person may feel overwhelmingly tired, limbs may feel heavy and impossible to move. Many people experience intermittent stuttering, or slurring of their words. The normal rhythm of their speech may change as well. Some people with MS experience urinary urgency, incontinence, and bowel control problems. Adults with MS may experience varying levels of sexual dysfunction. Decreased sensation, diminished arousal, and impotence are common. People with MS are often extremely sensitive to heat. All other symptoms tend to worsen when the person becomes overheated. They may become dizzy, or fatigued much faster in very warm temperatures. Although the list of MS symptoms is long, it is unusual for one person to exhibit them all. Medication and various therapies can help the MS patient cope with troublesome symptoms. Telling family and friends you have Multiple Sclerosis The decision to tell your family and friends about to multiple sclerosis, is a very personal one. The people who need to know most are those that you live with, because they are the people who will be affected the most. When and how much to tell your children will depend on the age of the children, and their level of maturity. You know your children best; trust your judgment about what they can handle Your spouse or life partner can help you research and decide upon a course of treatment. The treatment that you choose will affect your lifestyle and potentially have the lifestyle of your mate; therefore, it is important to involve them in making that decision. It is also suggested that you have your spouse attend doctors appointments, support groups and read any books or web sites that you use to learn about the disease. Be sure to share with your spouse when you are having symptoms, what they are, and how they affect your daily activities. Depending on the amount of emotional support you may choose to tell or not tell extended family and friends. If you know that a someone is likely to respond with pity, anger, or negativity it may be better to put off telling them so as long as you can. It's important to surround yourself with positive people who will be supportive and positive as you adjust to your new diagnosis of MS. When you choose to tell someone about your MS, be sure not to overload them with information. Share enough so they know what's going on with you, but not so much that they overloaded. At the same time, you should try to answer all their questions and give them sources for more information if needed. Most people will be understanding when you share your diagnosis of MS. When to tell your employer that you have MS Deciding when to tell your employer of your MS diagnosis is easily as important as deciding when to tell your family. Under ADA rules you do not have to disclose an illness unless it causes a significant challenge in the workplace, or if you are requesting accommodations such as specific equipment or altered work times. However, multiple sclerosis is unpredictable and while you may be fine today, it is possible for a new symptom to start while you're at work. The best time to inform your employer of the diagnosis may be when you are symptom-free. Arm yourself with information about your illness so that you can reassure your employer and provide needed information. Explain to your employer the unpredictable nature of multiple sclerosis. If you have been working with your company for a long time, then you may be able to reference a past flare-up in the workplace. For example, Do You Remember a Year Ago when I used a cane because my leg was numb? That was an MS flare-up. Consider making a plan with your employer to deal with flare-ups in the workplace. By using examples you can show your employer that even though you have MS you will still be a productive member of the work team. Some employers will allow you to use flex time, or even work from your home office part of the time it necessary during a flare up. If you have problems with spasticity in your arms consider using voice recognition software if you use your computer a lot. You find yourself these using mobility aids such as a cane or wheelchair at work you may find that you need to rearrange your workspace. Making room for these devices will make your job easier and allow you to be more productive. Many people are concerned that if they tell their employer about their MS diagnosis they will be discriminated against, were treated differently by their employer or coworkers. While sometimes as does occur, in the majority of cases you will find those you work with to be helpful in understanding. If you are honest and upfront you should have no problem. Managing relationships with multiple sclerosis Relationships are hard work. When one partner has MS it adds a whole new set of challenges. Multiple sclerosis is unpredictable, making short-term and long-term planning difficult. You never know when MS will interfere with activities, or plans. Memory loss associated with multiple sclerosis may leave the healthy partner feeling that everything falls on them. They may begin to resent the forgetfulness of their partner. Having MS fatigue means having to change plans sometimes, it means having trouble completing tasks you both used to take for granted. The physical symptoms of MS mean you may not be as active as you once were or may need assistance with household tasks or self care. Diminished feeling and slower reaction times may lead to sexual difficulties. Fatigue and altered self-image can mean the partner with MS doesn't feel as interested in sex as they once did. These are the hard facts of multiple sclerosis. But, that does not mean a person with MS is incapable of sustaining a long term relationship. Communication is a key factor in any relationship. For those with MS, communication is crucial to a satisfying relationship for both partners. Talk your partner about your symptoms, how MS makes you feel, both physically and emotionally. When either partner is feeling angry or frustrated by the limitations of the disease, they should be honest with one another. Remember a person may have multiple sclerosis, but MS is not the person. Be flexible. There may come a time when the typical division of responsibilities may need adjusted. Approach each new challenge with an eye to finding a solution that makes both of you happy. Deal with sexual issues openly and honestly. Tell your partner what is going on with you and take the time to reassure them you are not rejecting them. Let them know they are still attractive in your eyes. Together, look for ways to fulfill the needs of both partners. Find other ways to stay close. Take time to celebrate each other, every day and dream together. Managing MS Fatigue Fatigue is a very common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis. The type of fatigue associated with MS is very different than simply being tired and worn out. MS fatigue muscle deep and affects both the entire body and brain. Your limbs may feel like way 2000 pounds all of a sudden. It may seem impossible to keep your eyes open and sometimes even hold your head up. Fatigue can have suddenly and without warning. You may feel fine an energetic one minute and completely exhausted the next. While MS fatigue can't be treated or cured, it can be successfully managed. Most importantly, be sure to get enough sleep. You may find that you cannot stay up as late, or keep the same schedule as you did before multiple sclerosis. Listen to your body and adjust your schedule as necessary. Some people find it necessary to leave room in their schedules for a nap in the early afternoon. Many employers are open to this, as it can be considered a reasonable accommodation under ADA rules. However, to maintain your employer's trust you must be sure to be back at work at the scheduled time. Plan your day around those times when you know you will be most tired. If you know your body falls into exhaustion at 3 pm, don't plan on doing anything important after 2pm or so. Proper nutrition plays a big role in managing MS fatigue. If your body isn't getting the right balance of vitamins, minerals, calories, and water, it can't perform at its optimal level. It might be helpful to have a nutritional screening done to see which vitamins and minerals you are deficient in. Exercise is important, too. When you exercise, even lightly, your body releases natural endorphins, burns fat, and builds muscle. Endorphins lift your mood and give you energy to do other things. Again, listen to your body and don't over do it. Too much of anything is not always a good thing. MS fatigue can be disabling, but with a little planning and careful attention you can reduce its effects on your life. Living with Multiple Sclerosis For many people hearing the words 'Multiple Sclerosis' feels like being hit by a truck. Fear and uncertainty take over and you begin to worry about you future. Even though MS isn't a rare disease, it is far from common. For many in their 30's or older they associate MS with childhood icon who became completely disabled from MS. While total disability does occur, it is not common. MS is not fatal. People with MS can lead normal lives and enjoy a typical life span. Living with multiple sclerosis is not always easy, but with planning and forethought it is possible enjoy life. Plan physical activates for times of the day when you experience less fatigue. Pay attention to good nutrition and take positive, proactive steps to reduce stress. Daily cardio exercise will help you maintain mobility and keep your heart and lungs healthy. Strength training will build muscle, giving you more to work with during a flare up. Strong, healthy muscle will not reduce the effects of a flare up, but the more muscle you have to start with , the less recovery you will have to make in order to maintain function. Daily stretching can help maintain flexibility, reduce spacticity and make daily activities easier. Examine your work situation. You may need to reduce your work hours or change to a less stressful job. Meditation is often helpful in reducing stress and controlling symptoms such as pain and dizziness. If you lose balance often or experience dizziness, consider using a cane to reduce injury due to falls. Research treatment plans for MS. Standard allopathic medicine and alternative medicine disciplines all have several therapy options. While there is no cure for MS, there are many options to help slow down disease progression, reverse symptoms, and even help repair myelin. Giving yourself or family member an injection Giving yourself or a family member an injection can be scary. Most people don't like shots and the idea of giving one can be a major stressor. However, for many people with multiple sclerosis, weekly or even daily injections are a way of life. People with MS routinely give inject their medications into a muscle, IM injections, or just under the skin. These are called subcutaneous injections. (SQ) It is important to know which type of injection you are to use when taking your injectable multiple sclerosis therapy. Your neurologist, doctor or MS nurse will instruct you in the correct way to take your shots and you will be given plenty of time to practice. If you are unsure of the correct procedure for giving your shots, ask. It is your health practitioners job to help you become comfortable administering your own injections. Whichever type of injectable medication you take be sure to store it as the manufacturer suggests. Refrigerated medications should be allowed to sit on a counter for at least an hour to warm to room temperature. Gather all your supplies before starting and do not let anything distract you while you are preparing or administering your shot. Most MS medications suggest applying ice to the intended injection site before hand to lessen pain and help reduce reactions. To reduce the likelihood of injection site reactions, it is very important to rotate shot locations. You should never inject in the same area twice in a row, and if possible never in the same month. IM injections are given in the large muscles of the thigh, hip, upper arm or buttocks. SQ injections can be given just about anywhere, but remember to alternate injection sites. After giving the injection, massage the area gently for several minutes and then apply ice. Standard Allopathic treatments for Multiple Sclerosis. While there is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis, there are many treatments. Some help delay onset of disability and work to slow progression of the disease. These are called disease altering drugs or DAD. Some treatments are designed to shorten the length of exacerbations or flare-ups. Still other medications are used to relive symptoms of MS either short term or long term. The most popular DAD medications are the Interferon beta drugs. Avonex, Rebif and Betaseron fall into this class. These medications work to limit immune system response and help reduce the number and frequency of MS attacks. During an active exacerbation, prednisone based medications can be given to reduce the length and severity of the flare up. Prednisone is a steroid medication that reduces inflammation within the body. Managing pain in multiple sclerosis When you think about multiple sclerosis symptoms, pain isn't the first thing that comes to mind. From the outside you can't see it, those who know the person may not even realize the amount of pain they experience But, it's there. The pain associated with multiple sclerosis comes in many forms. Stabbing pains, muscle spasms, pins and needles, or little twinges that seemed to come from nowhere are all common. They are all caused by the same thing - nerve damage. Pain associated with multiple sclerosis is classified in two types, acute pain and chronic pain. The acute pain of multiple sclerosis is sharp and brief. It seems to come and go randomly. Trigeminal Neuralgia -- this is a stabbing pain in the face. It may feel like someone stabbing you in the face with a needle. Many people say that it sometimes feels like a toothache however, it is caused by damage to the trigeminal nerve. Most of the time, this type of pain can be treated successfully with medications such as carbamazepine or phenytoin. Lhermitte's Sign is a very common symptom in multiple sclerosis. When I the person ends their head forward there is a stabbing feeling similar to being shocked with an electrical wire. Anticonvulsant medications may be prescribed to prevent this sensation, or the person may choose to wear a soft collar to keep them from bending the neck forward. For burning or aching your doctor may prescribe and anticonvulsant medication called gabapentin (Neurontin) or an antidepressant medication called amitriptyline (Elavil). Both of these medications modify the way the central nervous system reacts to pain. When a compression stocking or glove might help by converting the sensation to pay into a pressure. Placing a warm compress on the area might help convert this pain sensation to warmth. Leaky Gut and Multiple Sclerosis No one knows what causes multiple sclerosis. Throughout the world you'll find as many theories on the causes of autoimmune diseases as you'll find researchers. One fairly popular theory states that autoimmune diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, and Lou Gehrig's disease are caused by either a form of leaky gut syndrome or food sensitivities. Leaky gut syndrome occurs when intact proteins passed through small spaces between the intestinal walls and enter into the bloodstream. When this occurs, the immune system is activated into attacking these proteins because to the immune system, intact food proteins is an invader. The problem is that these of food proteins also very closely resemble the tissue of the central nervous system. When the immune system attacks the food protein it also attacks the body's own myelin. The best ways to keep this from occurring are to first, heal the leaky gut in order to slow down and hopefully prevent intact food proteins from entering the bloodstream. And, second stop eating foods that contain proteins that are known to mimic the self-proteins of the central nervous system. Many people have a natural vulnerability to developing leaky gut syndrome. Things like eating a food you're sensitive to, alcohol consumption, infection, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, candida (yeast) overgrowth, and parasites can cause the small spaces in intestinal walls to get larger. This will allow more food proteins to leak into the bloodstream. One of the most important things when healing a leaky gut is the very careful regarding food sensitivities. It is recommended that all people with multiple sclerosis has a allergy or ELISA test to determine which foods their body reacts to. Many people with multiple sclerosis have found that by avoiding the foods they show sensitive to by the ELISA test they have fewer flare-ups and a definite decrease in symptoms. Herbal supplements used to treat multiple sclerosis Although not recognized in standard allopathic medicine, the use of herbal supplements can be very useful in treating MS. Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory. In addition to treating inflammation caused by multiple sclerosis, fish oil also may have the ability to assist in myelin repair. It is often recommended by alternative medicine practitioners that people with multiple sclerosis take between 3 and 9 grams of fish oil daily, for optimal myelin repair. Some studies have shown that soya lecithin combined with fish oil may further help myelin repair itself after an MS attack. It has been shown that the body needs adequate calcium intake in order to optimize its ability to transmit electrical signals. In addition, some studies have shown that high intake of vitamin D may slow the progression of multiple sclerosis. Therefore, it is recommended that people with MS take a combination of calcium and vitamin D daily. Magnesium and calcium work together to assist electrical signals traveling in the body. Taken before bed, magnesium is also very helpful in treating restless legs syndrome, or spasticity at night. People with MS can take up to 1500 mg of magnesium per day. Too much magnesium can cause loose stools or other bowel problems. Many people with multiple sclerosis suffer from severe fatigue. A good B-complex sublingual liquid can help treat this. Be sure the preparation you choose has a high concentration of vitamin B-12. For depression associated with multiple sclerosis, many people use St. John's Wort. Sometimes, multiple sclerosis can make you feel as if you're thinking slower than normal or that your brain is in a fog. Ginseng and/or Ginko Biloba may help treat this. Of course, speak to your doctor or alternative medicine practitioner before starting this or any other supplement regimen. Some vitamins, minerals, or supplements may interact with standard multiple sclerosis treatments. Depression caused by multiple sclerosis Depression associated with multiple sclerosis can be a double edged sword. The effects of multiple sclerosis can cause depression if specific parts of the brain or nervous system are affected. At the same time, the challenges and obstacles that come with having MS can also bring on depression, especially if the person finds it difficult to do things they've always done before. There are many prescription medications available to treat depression. Some of the most popular and well-known are Zoloft, Prozac and Elavil. Take the time to discuss their use with your doctor. There are also several very effective herbal remedies for depression. Chamomile, Kava Kava and St. John's Wort has all proven effective in treating depression in many people. Before using any herb is important to discuss it with your doctor. Some herbal preparations can interact with standard multiple sclerosis treatments. Regardless of how busy you are, be sure to set time aside to do something you enjoy every day. And, even though you feel bad, you should spend time with family and friends everyday. Isolating yourself from those you care about will just make you feel worse. It is also important to get out of the house and spend time in the sunlight. Many people experience depression and they do not receive enough sunlight, and this is called seasonal affective disorder, and occurs mostly in the winter but can happen anytime. Anyone will get depressed if they feel they do not have a purpose. Regardless of your level of disability, find something that you can do that gives you a sense of purpose; help a neighbor or a family member or consider volunteering. Don't discount the value of daily exercise in battling depression. Exercise releases endorphins, which help elevate your mood naturally. Remember also, that all the Interferon beta medications used to treat MS have the side effect of causing depression. If you are experiencing depression and taking these medications you should call your doctor right away. The matter what its cause, depression should be taken seriously.
Benefits of assist dogs The majority of people with multiple sclerosis never develop total disability. However, almost everyone with MS develops some type of disability. On days you are dizzy, off balance or in pain, or experiencing other symptoms, you need a little help. An assistance dog may be of great help in these cases. Most people equate assist animals with seeing eye dogs. But, it is possible train a dog to help with physical problems, as well. A dog can be taught to pick up something off the floor, retrieve the telephone, or even a person. For those with balance issues, a larger dog can be taught to let the person lean on them. The dog can then help guide their person. Around the house, an assist dog may turn on lights, carry a plate, get an object or family member, or help their person get dressed. Some dogs can even be taught to help pull a wheelchair. In public, a physical assist dog can get something from a shelf, hold keys or other objects or help their person maneuver through a crowded store. In addition, an assist dog adds an extra measure of protection against violent crime for a person who is more vulnerable. Many good dog-training agencies work to train physical assist dogs. Several places provide curriculum and guidance to help you train your own dog. It may be beneficial to have an experienced trainer do the initial training work, but, since needs may change, the person with MS should also learn the best way to teach their dog new tasks. Remember, your dog must regularly practice the things it has learned so he/she does not forget what is expected. A good assist dog is large enough to physically complete the tasks you want to teach and calm enough to accompany you anywhere. Tips to keep cool For people with multiple sclerosis, it is very important not to let themselves get overheated. When the body overheats, there is usually an increase of symptoms. Medically, this is called a pseudo exacerbation. Typically this causes mild or occasional symptoms to get worse. The most common MS symptoms effected are dizziness, speech difficulties, loss of balance, fatigue, and clarity of thinking. However, it is important to remember that any symptom the person has experienced can be effected. Cooling vests can be purchased for minimal cost. Some of these vests are designed to be soaked in cool water and put in the freezer, others have inserts that you keep in the freezer until needed, much like ice packs used for keeping lunches cool. For those on a limited income, the National MS Society can sometimes help with purchase. Wearing a large bath sheet around your neck will do the same thing. Just keep the bath sheet or towel in the freezer until you need it. Whenever possible, stay out of the direct sun and away from hot, stuffy places. During summer, ask a friend or family member to run errands for you. You might consider hiring a local teenager to do these for you, as well. If you must go out in the heat, drink plenty of water, wear a wide brimmed hat to keep the direct sun off, and always seek shade. Wear a cooling vest or cold towel around your neck. For outdoor activities, invest in a personal, handheld fan, they spray cool water on you and can help lower body temperature. Listen to your body. If you find yourself feeling unwell, feeling unusually tired, or having an increase in symptoms, stop what you are doing and go cool off. Find an air-conditioned store, or just sit in your car with the air running until you feel better. The importance of eliminating toxins Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. This means that something causes the immune system to go into overdrive and attack normal, healthy myelin. No one is quite sure why this happens, however one theory that the body is reacting to toxins either ingested or in the environment. Some people have found significant reduction of symptoms or flare-ups by eliminating potential toxins in the foods they eat and in their home and workplace. In order to eliminate potential toxins from foods is important to eat whole, organic foods, and foods, which have not been sprayed with chemical pesticides or monosodium glutamate (MSG). . Most packaged foods contain fillers, preservatives, artificial flavors, and MSG. For the person trying to eliminate toxins in their food, these should be avoided. Be sure to read labels on everything you buy. If you eat meat or dairy products, be sure aren't those items do not contain added hormones or chemicals. If possible, find out if the fruits and vegetables you are buying have been sprayed with an MSG compound in the field. This has become common practice in many places. After purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables be sure to wash them thoroughly before eating. Regardless of how well your city filters its water, the water that comes out of your Contains toxins. Chlorine, and fluoride are used regularly by almost every city she either purify or enhance the city's water. These chemicals should be avoided by people who have most full sources. Consider drinking distilled or specially purified water. Many researchers point to Mercury is a definite toxin within our environment. Examine your home, workplace, and dental work for possible sources of mercury. While removing toxins from food and environment will not sure your MS, it may serve to reduce flareups or ease symptoms. The chronic pain of multiple sclerosis Most people with multiple sclerosis experience some sort of chronic pain. Where acute pain is sharp and short lived, chronic pain is with the person most of the time. Sometimes it can vary in intensity and even location, but chronic pain is always with you. There are many things that can cause chronic pain for a person with multiple sclerosis. Nerve damage can cause burning, tingling, and the sensation of pins and needles. This phenomenon is called chronic dysesthesias. Typically, this is treated by either the anticonvulsant medication gabapentin (Neurontin) or the antidepressant amitriptyline (Elavil). Both of these medications modify how the central nervous system reacts to pain. Non-medical interventions include wearing a pressure stocking or glove, applying a warm compress to the skin, or using over-the-counter and pain medications such as acetaminophen. Muscle spasms or muscle cramps or called flexor spasms, these are common types of pain caused by spasticity. This is typically treated with prescription medications such as baclofen (Lioresal) or tizanidine (Zanaflex). In addition to medication, this type of chronic pain can be treated by regular stretching, proper water intake, and adequate dietary intake of sodium and potassium. Joint tightness and aching is also caused by the spasticity of multiple sclerosis. This type of chronic pain is ideally treated with light exercise, regular stretching, and prescription strength anti-inflammatory medications. In many cases, musculoskeletal pain can be caused not so much by multiple sclerosis itself, but by techniques used to compensate for balance problems or problems walking. Also, using mobility devices, such as canes or crutches, incorrectly will cause back pain. People who use a wheelchair regularly may commonly experience back pain due to improper posture in their chair. Physical therapy, massage, and heat are all effective treatments for this type of pain. In all cases it is important to properly evaluate the source of the pain in order to most effectively treat it. The Best Bet Diet The best bet diet was designed to people who have multiple sclerosis. It is based on the idea that the immune system goes into overdrive when food proteins enter the bloodstream through the key yet. The best bet diet is formulated to eliminate foods which have a molecular structure similar to myelin.By avoiding the specific foods you reduce the risk that proteins which leak to the blood might be mistaken for healthy myelin by the immune system. Common foods that a molecularly similar to myelin include animal milk, butter, cheese and yogurts made from animal milk.This means that all dairy products must be avoided. Most people replace these items with soy milk, rice milk, or coconut milk. Gluten is another common food item which is molecularly similar to myelin. Eliminating gluten from the diet means abstaining from wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats. These staple grains can be replaced by corn, brown rice, quinoa, and potato flour. Many places carry gluten-free brands cereals and other products. Beans, pulses, peas and all other legumes are to be avoided. However, all other vegetables are allowed. Creamy few vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and kale are preferred because they're high in omega-3. People in the best bet diet should avoid refined sugar. This type of sugar increases the amount of food protein which leaks into the bloodstream, and also makes the immune system was effective. More healthful choices include fructose (fruit sugar), maple syrup, stevia, and honey. It is very important for people who filed the best bet diet to be sure and have an accurate ELISA test in order to determine which other foods they are sensitive to. Food sensitivities may cause the immune system to overreact and attack healthy myelin. While the Best Bet Diet is not a cure for multiple sclerosis, it has been shown us active in reducing the number and severity of flare-ups, in easing symptoms. Parenting with multiple sclerosis Many people, newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, wonder how they will be able to raise their family. In fact, until recently many doctors told women with MS not to have children. But, it is possible to raise even a large family if you have multiple sclerosis. Like everything else, it takes planning and willingness to take an honest look at your health and abilities. Don't try to do to be 'super mom or dad.' It's important to remember that even parents without MS have trouble keeping up with everything. Parents with MS should learn to budget their time, and more importantly, their energy. Plan a trip to the playground for times you have more energy, read books and do quiet activities with your kids during those times you're likely to feel more tired. As your child grows, be honest with them about your health. Children are naturally forgiving, and they understand more than most adults give them credit for. Don't be afraid to tell your child when you need to change plans because of multiple sclerosis symptoms. For example, if you have planned to take your child on a nature hike during the weekend, but find yourself exhausted, there is nothing wrong with telling your child how you're feeling. You can suggest another, less physical activity and go hiking when you feel better. Prioritize your activities. Learn to say yes to things that are important to you and your child, and say no to those things that hold less weight. Try to do only one or two major things each day. If you spend two hours doing the weekly grocery shopping, leave other errands for another day. When the grocery shopping is finished, do a quiet activity what won't require a lot of energy. Keep in mind that learning to be respectful of mom or dad's physical limitations may help your child become understanding, and tolerant of those around him/her. Children of parents with disabilities tend to grow up to be responsible, caring and very loving adults. Optic Neuritis Optic Neuritis is inflammation and demyelination of the optic nerve. Symptoms include when vision, loss of visual acuity or sharpness, partial blindness, pain behind the eye, and changing color vision. While there are several causes of optic neuritis, it is the single most common initial symptom of multiple sclerosis. The majority of optic neuritis cases occur in only one eye. Optic Neuritis usually affects people between the ages of 15 and 50 years old. Within this age group, it has been shown that over half of all patients who develop optic neuritis will be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis within 15 years. Optic neuritis is more common people of European descent. Women have double the risk of men developing optic neuritis. Loss of visual acuity affects over half of those with optic neuritis. This ranges from complete blindness to barely noticeable blurring of vision. Eye pain is described as an overall achiness behind the eye. Some people experience a headache behind the effected eye. Changes in color perception occur in almost all cases of ON. Most people experience this as a general dulling of the color red. Many people experience seeing a flashing light in their peripheral vision. Many people with ON find they see better in a dimly lit room and that bright light may cause eye pain. For about half of those with ON, symptoms get worse when they are overheated or exhausted. Onset can last a few hours to a few days. Usually sight starts to improve after about a week. After an attack of ON, many people regain all of their vision, and even those who go totally blind may completely recover. No one can predict how much lost vision will be regained. Approximately 1/3 of all people have a second occurrence of ON. Those who experience worsening of symptoms due to heat or exhaustion have the greatest risk of reoccurrence. Optic Neuritis is typically treated with IV steroids such as Solu-Medrol. Specific MS symptoms can be treated with medication Many people with multiple sclerosis experience spasticity or involuntary muscle movements, and tremors. These can be effectively treated with baclofen, clonazepam, dantrolene, tizanidine, diazepam, isoniazid and gabepentin. Bladder problems are a common symptom of MS. Bladder symptoms range from inability to urinate to incontinence. Bladder infections are common in those who must use a catheter. Medications used to treat these symptoms include ciprofloxacin, sulfamethoxazole, desmopressin, imipramine methenamine nitrofurantoin, oxybutynin, and desmopressin For depression caused by Multiple Sclerosis or DSD medications, your doctor will probably prescribe one of the many well known depression medications. Multiple Sclerosis causes severe pain in the muscles and joints for many people. This pain can be treated with one of many medications. The most widely used pain meds for people with MS are Elavil, Tegretol, Klonopin, Neurontin, Tofranil, Pamelor or Aventyl, and Dilantin. When choosing a pain medication, it is important to tell your doctor if you have any other medical conditions, take any other medications or supplements, or if you have ever had a problem with addiction to drugs or alcohol. There are many symptoms associated with MS, and at times they can seem overwhelming, but with proper treatment and effective medication symptoms can be managed so that the patient can live a full life. Low Dose Naltrexone and Multiple Sclerosis Naltrexone was approved by the FDA in 1984. Its original purpose was to treat heroin addiction. In high doses naltrexone blocks the receptors that heroin and other opiates act upon. However, patients using this treatment often did not stick with it due to side effects of insomnia, severe depression, irritability, and loss of feeling of pleasure. These side effects occurred because in high doses, the medication blocks the production of endorphins. Doctors soon stopped using naltrexone to treat addiction. In 1985 doctors started researching the effects of naltrexone on the immune system. They were concentrating on its possible uses in treating AIDS. They found that low doses of naltrexone taken at bedtime triple the amount of endorphins produced by the body. During the same study, it was found in most people with multiple sclerosis have low endorphin levels. It is thought that proper endorphin levels orchestrate the activities of the immune system and help the body determine between normal, healthy cells and mutated, precancerous cells and bacteria. Taking a small amount of naltrexone at bedtime blocks endorphin production for a short time while the person is sleeping. During the normal cycle of hormone release, which occurs in the early morning hours, the body compensates by producing three ties more endorphins than typical. Therefore, giving multiple sclerosis patients low doses of naltrexone at bedtime brings endorphin levels to normal. Further studies have indicated that low dose naltrexone may slow down disease progression when taken in amounts of 3g per day, at bedime. Other effects include relief from spacticity, increased energy and improvement in optic neuritis symptoms. Because low dose naltrexone or LDN is not a standard treatment for multiple sclerosis, it may be difficult to find a physician with accurate information and who is willing to prescribe it. However, many naturopaths and other alternative medicine physicians may be more knowledgeable. It is recommended that people with MS do their own research into LDN and draw their own conclusions. Copaxone There is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis. There are several medications thought to slow the progression of the disease. In some people, these medications can reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups, and may help reduce the number of brain and spinal cord lesions. These medications are fairly new, so it is unknown if they help reduce the extent of disability from MS One of these medications is Copaxone. This injectable medication is used to treat Relapsing-Remitting MS. It has no effect on the three other types of Multiple Sclerosis. Researchers are not completely sure how Copaxone works to slow MS progression. It is believed that the drug prevents damage causing cells from forming, and at the same time stimulating the beneficial cells to help reduce the damage in the areas with lesions. Those who choose Copaxone therapy for MS give themselves a subcutaneous injection (shot under the skin) every day. The medication is dispensed in pre-filled syringes. Measuring is not necessary. Patients using this therapy will be taught how to give injections and for most people the entire procedure takes less than one minute. As with any medication, there are side effects associated with Copaxone. The most common side effects are swelling, redness, pain, itching or a lump at the injection site. Some people experience a break down of the fatty tissue in the area they take injections. Just as common are general body reactions like chest pain, weakness, nausea, joint pain, anxiety, muscle stiffness, and feeling flushed. According to the makers of Copaxone, these effects are mild and do not usually require medical treatment. Less common, but more severe side effects include hives, skin rash with irritation, dizziness, sweating, chest pain, trouble breathing, severe injection site pain and general painful or uncomfortable changes in your overall health. Patients experiencing the above side effects should stop taking injections and call their doctor immediately. . Novantrone Novantrone is typically prescribed as chemotherapy for treating cancer. However its use in treating secondary- progressive, progressive- relapsing, and significantly worsening relapsing- remitting multiple sclerosis has been proven. The Interferon Beta medications work by altering the immune system to slow down progression of the disease, and stave off disability. Novantrone works differently. It suppresses the immune system by killing off potentially abnormal T cells, be cells, and macrophages. It is thought that these cells contribute to the body's attack against the myelin sheath. For MS patients, Novantrone is prescribed in amounts far less than those used to treat cancer. Treatments are shorter, spaced farther apart, and have fewer side effects. Since there is a limit of how much of this medication you can be given during your lifetime, be sure to tell your doctor if you have ever been treated with chemotherapy for cancer. Typically, MS patients receive eight to 10 doses of Novantrone through an IV over two to three years However, before starting treatment with Novantrone it is important talk to your doctor. Tell your doctor if you have ever been diagnosed with heart disease, blood clotting problems, anemia, or liver disease. If you have ever been treated with any cancer chemotherapy, or radiation therapy is very important that you notify your doctor. In addition, tell your doctor if you have a low white blood cell count, unusual bleeding, or any known allergies. These conditions could affect your treatment with this medication. All medications have side effects. Known serious side effects associated with Novantrone include congestive heart failure, leukemia, and some in problems. Other side effects are the whites of the eyes turning blue, hair loss, an increased risk of infection due to a decrease in white blood cell count. In women Novantrone can cause monthly cycles stop while on the medication. In some women in this effect is permanent. Rebif There are three Interferon beta medications used in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. These medications work to slow the progression of MS, reducing legions and delaying the onset of some types of disability. Rebif is one of these medications. Rebif is delivered through subcutaneous injection three times per week. These injections must be spaced at least 48 hours apart. Many people take them on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday before bed so they don't have to worry about taking injections during the weekend. Rebif is supplied in pre measured syringes with an auto injector. Auto injectors look much like a ballpoint pen, and are designed to deliver the medication to the correct spot under the skin every time. You place the auto injector against your skin where you want to give the injection and push a button. The side effects of Rebif are similar to those of all the Interferon Beta medications. Depression and suicidal ideation are common. Those taking Rebif should monitor their moods closely and keep a diary of their feelings to help ensure depression is recognized and treated. Before starting Rebif, tell your doctor if you have ever been treated for or experienced any type of mental illness, including mild depression. Past bouts with depression can increase risk of this side effect. It is important that patients taking Rebif get regular blood tests to check liver function. Liver failure is a serious side effect of this medication. If you notice any yellowing of your eyes or skin, or if you start to bruise easily while taking this medication, discontinue shots and call your doctor immediately. Most people who take Rebif experience flu like symptoms within several hours of taking their shot. Fever, chills, exhaustion, muscle aches, and pain usually subside within two months of starting therapy. Rebif can cause white or red blood cell counts to drop suddenly and unexpectedly. Your doctor may order frequent blood tests to screen for this. As with any medication delivered by injection there is a possibility of localized injection site redness, soreness and pain. It is suggested to apply ice to the injection site before and after giving the shot. Education is important when choosing your Multiple Sclerosis medication. Research all available options and discuss with your doctor in order to choose the therapy right for you. Avonex The Multiple Sclerosis medication, Avonex, has been available to patients since 1998. Today, Avonex is the most widely prescribed MS treatment in both the United States and world- wide. It is used exclusively to treat the relapsing forms of Multiple Sclerosis. Avonex works to reduce the frequency and severity of Multiple Sclerosis relapse and, can slow the progression of some types of MS disability. It is one of the Interferon beta medications approved for the treatment of MS. Avonex is given as an intramuscular injection, this means is a shot given into a large muscle, similar to inoculations and insulin. It is taken once a week. Avonex is dispensed either in pre-filled syringes or as a powder, which the patient must mix immediately before injection. Like any medication, Avonex has side effects. The most serious side effects are depression and suicidal thoughts, and severe liver damage. People taking Avnonex are warned to be aware of their moods and tell a friend or family member if they become unusually sad. It is also suggested that those taking Avonex have blood drawn regularly to test liver function, and watch for yellowing of eyes and skin, or easy bruising. If any of these occur, patients are instructed to stop taking the injections and call their doctor right away. Possible sever allergic reactions to Avonex include heart problems, seizures, changes in thyroid function, and a drop in white or red blood cell counts. The most common side effects are fever, chills, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, and sweating. People who take Avonex injections describe these side effects as similar to having the flu(influenza virus). Most of the time, side effects decrease with long term use. It is suggested that those who experience side effects take their injections at night so that they sleep through the worst of the reaction. Everyone with Multiple Sclerosis must make an informed decision regarding treatment. It is important to educate yourself about all the treatments options and decide what is right for you. Betaseron The third of the Interferon beta medications is called Betaseron. It is used to treat the remitting types and secondary progressive type of Multiple Sclerosis. While Betaseron is an Interferon beta drug, it has a different classification than Avonox and Rebif. Betaseron works differently that the other two, as well. This medication blocks T-cells from attacking myelin and reduces the amount of a protein called cytokines. Cytokines activates the immune system, which in people in MS can cause a flare up. This medication is administered through a subcutaneous injection every other day. The typical dosage is 250 mcg per injection. Betaseron will be dispensed by the pharmacy in three parts, a pre-filled diluting syringe, a vial adapter with needle attached and a vial of powdered medication. You will use one of these three part sets for each injection. This means Betaseron does not need to be refrigerated, and easy to take along with you when you travel. As with all current medications for Multiple Sclerosis, Betaseron has serious side effects, and the potential to cause liver failure. Depression is one of the most common side effects of Betaseron. Those using this medication should talk with their doctor about any signs of depression or thoughts of suicide. If you, or a family member, caregiver or friend notices depression, you should notify your doctor right away. Some people have severe allergic reactions to Betaseron. Anaphylaxis is one of the known allergic reactions, if you notice difficulty breathing or swallowing call for emergency medical assistance immediately. Other allergic reactions include swelling, hives, and swelling of the mouth and tongue. As with any injected medication, injection site irritation is always possible Betaseron is given in graduated dosing. Patients start with a small dose and, over time, work up to the full dose. This increasing dosing schedule helps to reduce the side effects of muscle pain, fever, fatigue, and chills that are common with Interferon beta drugs. While these flu like side effects do still occur with Betaseron, their frequency is greatly reduced. Deciding which, if any, disease altering medication to use is an important step in managing and learning to live with your disease. Research medication options completely and discuss with your doctor before making your choice. Nonchemical ways to deal with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis In addition to herbs and medications a person might take, there are many ways to treat symptoms of MS. Problems with spasticity can be helped by doing simple yet thorough stretching every day. Taking a slow walk will also help loosen joints and muscles and relieve tightness and soreness. Many people find a heating pad or warm compress and massage to be helpful as well. Pain can by various meditation techniques, distraction, and biofeedback. Some people with multiple sclerosis experience difficulty in speaking, they may either stutter or slur their words. Sometimes this condition can be relieved by either writing as you speak or, using a homemade or standard sign language while talking. These techniques encourage the brain to use different pathways for speech. For those sensitive to the heat, wearing a commercial cooling vest or cold wet towel around the neck is very beneficial. Taking this step to keep the body cool reduces the increase of symptoms associated with overheating. It's cannot be emphasized enough the importance of reducing the stress in your life. High stress situations can cause the immune system to kick into overdrive and actually cause an MS attack or flare up. Talk to your family about chores they can do or ways they can help you reduce your stress. It is also very important not to allow yourself to become overly tired. Some people find they need to cut their work hours from full-time to part-time. If you have physically demanding or stressful job you may need to consider changing careers. Proper nutrition is important to help keep the immune system running as smoothly as possible. Adequate water intake is also important. It is recommended that most people drink approximately half their weight in ounces of water per day. By taking a few simple steps you might be able to reduce the severity of symptoms and the amount of medication you take.
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