A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Living with multiple sclerosis: what to know after diagnosis

physical therapy

Patients with multiple sclerosis can work to limit limb weakness and inflammation with a healthy diet, exercise and physical therapy.

The diagnosis and treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) has progressed over the past decade. Options for immune and disease modifying therapy gives people who are living with MS more positive outcomes and opportunities.

Many people have the misconception at diagnosis that the disease will disable them or create a need for a high-level of assisted care. That really should not happen in this day and age, as long as it is treated early and aggressive,” said Dr. Paula Aston, Marshfield Clinic Health System neurologist.

Early action improves long-term outcomes

Without early treatment, the biggest problem is physical limitations. People experience limb weakness, difficulty walking, trouble swallowing and problems with fatigue and memory disturbance.

Treatment focuses on preventative measures instead of reversing symptoms. “If a patient has leg weakness, starting medications won’t make that better, but it prevents new inflammatory damage and prevents new deficits,” Aston said.

People suffering with MS should aim to decrease inflammation with lifestyle modifications. This includes no longer smoking, as evidence shows it causes inflammation spikes. Other ways to limit inflammation include eating a diet with whole foods, decreasing processed, high-sugar foods. Patients should also make exercise, high-intensity where possible, a regular part of their lifestyle.

Team approach to care

You’ll work with a wide-range of health care professionals as you seek care for MS. A neurological specialist will lead your care, recommending proper medications as well as a registered nurse and medical assistant who help answer questions and coordinate care.  This team can also advocate with insurances so patients can overcome any financial challenges that might stand in their way obtaining their medication. “We don’t want people avoiding treatment because they can’t afford it,” Aston said. “There are resources through grants and co-pay programs to help get patients the prescribed treatments.”

MS patients often receive referrals to physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, depending on their needs. These areas will work with people one on one addressing areas of weakness to help prevent further decline. They also are key to helping people maintain their daily routine and quality of life.

Aston also recommends patients reach out for mental health support. “Counselling can be important for any person living with chronic disease,” Aston said. “It’s important to have a sounding board and someone with who you can talk through your fears.”

If you have questions about living with MS request an appointment with a neurologist. 

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