MS diagnosis and your emotions

It's normal to go through many different emotions after finding out that you have multiple sclerosis (MS). Each person experiences this process differently. Find out more about what you might experience and how to cope.

"You have MS." After your doctor says these words, you may not remember much from the rest of the visit. Like many people, you may feel a sense of shock and numbness when you first learn of your diagnosis. Things may seem like a blur for a while, until you have had a chance to process the information.

Then, you may go through a series of emotions called the stages of grief. These stages often occur in people who have suffered a loss or experience a change that threatens their sense of self, such as the diagnosis of a chronic disease like MS. Not everyone goes through each stage, and they may spend different periods of time in each stage. But many people find that they experience these emotions. They are a normal part of the coping process.

In time, some of them will go away and the rest can be turned into more positive channels. It may take a couple of years to go through all of the stages. The stages include denial (refusing to accept that you have MS), anger, bargaining (with another person involved; God, fate, or a higher power), depression, and finally, acceptance of the condition as a part of your life

You may also feel other emotions, such as fear about MS or your future, frustration with MS or the medical system, or guilt about needing to receive help from others. These emotions are not easy to go through. But there are ways to cope:

Stay connected. Find something, whether it's your work, your network of friends and family, your spirituality, your hobbies, or your volunteer program, to keep you connected to and engaged in the world. This will help you keep MS in perspective and acknowledge it as just one part of your life.

Talk about your fears and concerns. Find someone with whom you can talk frankly. This person could be a family member, friend, health care professional, or someone from a support group. Getting your concerns and fears out in the open will make them seem less frightening.

Laugh. Keeping your sense of humour will stop MS from getting the best of you. Find something to laugh about every day.

Use your support network. Don't feel guilty about asking friends and family for help. You can also join a support network for people with MS. To find a group near you, contact your local MS society.

Get help. If you are having trouble coping, don't be afraid to seek professional help. Your doctor or local MS society can help direct you to a counsellor who can help you.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Coping-with-a-New-Diagnosis

After MS diagnosis: What's ahead?

MS is an unpredictable condition. There's no way to tell for sure what will happen in the future. But knowing which type of MS you have and staying informed can give you more information about what you may expect.

There are 4 types of MS:

  • relapsing-remitting MS
  • secondary progressive MS
  • primary progressive MS
  • progressive relapsing MS

About 75% of people with MS have relapsing-remitting MS. With relapsing-remitting MS, symptoms come and go. There are periods where symptoms get worse, called flares or relapses, followed by periods of remission, where symptoms are not noticeable.

Some people with relapsing-remitting MS go on to develop secondary progressive MS. Before disease-modifying medications for MS were available, about half of all people with relapsing-remitting MS went on to develop secondary progressive MS 10 years after they were first diagnosed. Currently, it is not known how much the disease-modifying medications (which can slow disease progression) will change this statistic.

With secondary progressive MS, people start off with flares and remissions and then find that their disease gets gradually but consistently more severe, causing more disability over time.

With primary progressive MS, the disease gradually gets worse over time. Unlike relapsing-remitting MS, there are no flares or remissions. But sometimes there are small "plateaus" where symptoms do not get worse. This is an uncommon type of MS that affects about 10% to 15% of all people with MS.

Progressive relapsing MS is the least common form of MS, affecting about 5% of all people with MS. People with progressive relapsing MS have gradual, steady worsening of their condition plus occasional flares or relapses.

Just as there are different types of MS, there are different severities within each type. Therefore, one person's experience with relapsing-remitting MS will not be exactly the same as another's. Some people may experience mild disability while others may experience disability that can have a more profound impact on their daily lives. Talk to your doctor about which type of MS you have, how severe it is, and what you can do to improve your future outcomes.

Another factor that can affect your future with MS is new medical research into treatments and how the disease works. Every day, scientists are gaining a clearer understanding of how to better predict and improve the future for people with MS. Talk to your doctor or your local MS society, or do your own research on the Internet or through the Multiple Sclerosis Society to stay abreast of new MS research that may affect your future.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Coping-with-a-New-Diagnosis

Getting support

A support network is a group of friends, family, and professionals who can provide you with emotional support and practical help (such as meal preparation or rides to medical appointments). Having a strong support network can help you cope with MS, especially if you are newly diagnosed. But how to you build one?

The good news is that you've probably got the beginnings of a support network already. Think of the people you already know that could be part of your support network, including friends, family, and medical professionals. Talk to your family and friends, and let them know that their help is welcome. Sometimes people are afraid to offer help because you seem to be doing fine, or because they don't want to intrude on your life. Letting them know that their help would be appreciated can help break down this barrier. Not everyone will be able to help - try not to take this personally.

You can also go outside of your usual circle of friends and join an MS support group. You may find it helpful to talk to others who share your experience. They may have valuable tips and encouragement to offer.

Once you've identified the people in your support network that can help, think of specific and time-limited things they can do to help you. Try to match the task to the person's schedule and abilities. For example, if you know someone who enjoys cooking, you can ask them if they could bring you a meal every couple of weeks. Don't feel guilty about asking for help. But make sure that what you are asking for is reasonable.

Your friends, family, and support group can provide you with emotional support and practical help. But it's important to know when to call in the professionals. Contact your doctor or MS nurse if you need medical attention, if you have questions related to your condition or treatment, or if you are experiencing new symptoms. If you are having difficulty coping with your emotions and talking with family and friends is not helping, consider asking for professional help. Your doctor or MS nurse can refer you to a professional counsellor.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Coping-with-a-New-Diagnosis

Fighting MS

When it comes to fighting MS, knowledge is the key. That's why it's important to stay informed about MS treatment and how to live well with MS. This summary will give you a starting point for your own research.

There's no cure for MS, but there are many different types of MS medications available to treat it, including disease-modifying medications, medications for MS symptoms, and medications to treat relapses. Disease-modifying medications can impact the progression of the disease, while symptom medications relieve symptoms without affecting the underlying disease. Relapse medications are used to bring relapses under control.

Disease-modifying medications include fingolimod (Gilenya®), dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera™), fampridine (FampyraTM), interferon beta-1a (Rebif®, Avonex®), interferon beta-1b (Betaseron®, Extavia®), glatiramer (Copaxone®), and natalizumab (Tysabri®).

  • Fingolimod (Gilenya®) is used to treat relapsing-remitting MS and can reduce the frequency of relapses and slow the progression of disability. It is generally used when other medications haven’t worked or were not tolerated.
  • The interferon beta medications (Rebif®, Avonex®, Betaseron®, Extavia®) are used to treat the relapsing forms of MS (relapsing-remitting MS and secondary progressive MS). They can reduce the number and frequency of relapses and slow the progression of physical disability.
  • Glatiramer (Copaxone®) is used to treat relapsing-remitting MS and can reduce the frequency of relapses.
  • Natalizumab (Tysabri®) is used to treat relapsing-remitting MS and can reduce the frequency of relapses and slow the progression of disability. It is generally used when other medications haven't worked or were not tolerated.
  • Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera™) is used to treat relapsing-remitting MS and can reduce the frequency of relapses and slow the progression of disability.

Relapses are usually treated with corticosteroid medications such methylprednisolone or prednisone. The steroids are used for a short period of time to reduce the length and severity of the relapse. Steroids may be started intravenously (injected into a vein) in hospital for 3 to 5 days, then switched to pills given by mouth at home for another 1 to 2 weeks.

Because MS can cause a wide range of symptoms including fatigue, bowel or bladder problems, problems with balance and coordination, memory problems, pain, movement problems, or vision problems, there are a variety of medications available to help with these symptoms. Speak to your doctor or MS nurse for more information on medications for the symptoms that are affecting you.

Besides taking medications, there are a number of other steps you can take to live well with MS:

  • Exercise and stretching: In addition to improving your overall health, exercise can help you manage your MS symptoms. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about an exercise program that will work for you.
  • A healthy diet: Eat a balanced diet that's rich in fruits and vegetables, high in fibre, and low in fat. Be suspicious of any diets that are purported to "cure" MS. So far no diet has been convincingly proven to do this. If you think your diet could use an overhaul or aren't sure how to eat a balanced diet, consult a dietitian.
  • Regular medical and dental care: People with MS can benefit from regular medical and dental care to monitor their health and catch problems early.
  • Staying connected: Although MS may affect your life, it's important to stay connected with your friends, family, work, hobbies, and community. This can help you put MS in perspective. You may also find it helpful to form new connections with others affected by MS.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Coping-with-a-New-Diagnosis