For something that affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide, multiple sclerosis (MS) remains something of a mystery. The immune disease, which limits the movement of nerves in the central nervous system and makes it hard for the muscles and the brain to communicate, has no cure, and scientists are still unaware of its causes.
But if there’s one thing we do know, it’s that an MS diagnosis is not a death sentence. In fact, several celebrities live with MS every day, and you’d never even know it! With that in mind—and in honor of World MS Day, on May 30—here are 15 things that everyone with MS would want you to know about it. So read on, and make sure to share these facts with your friends to inform them about the realities of living with MS. And for more amazing health advice, know that Eating This One Thing Daily Can Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease.
MS Is Not Fatal
Though doctors have yet to find a cure for MS, a diagnosis is by no means fatal. “Many people with MS live full, active lives,” Nancy L. Sicoette, M.D., director of the Multiple Sclerosis Program at Cedars-Sinai told Health. “We think of it as a chronic disease that can be managed.”
Plenty of Celebrities Live with MS
Though you’d never know it, there are several celebrities who live—and have thriving careers—with MS. Such celebrities include talk show host Montel Williams, actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, TV personality Jack Osbourne, political figure Ann Romney, and country music star Clay Walker. And for more eye-opening accounts of life with a medical condition, know that This Is What It’s Like to Have Prostate Cancer.
Women Are More Likely Than Men to Get MS
Women are two to three times more likely to get MS than men, though doctors are unsure as to why that is. One theory is that hormones may play a factor in a person’s susceptibility.
Not Everyone with MS Uses a Wheelchair
Multiple sclerosis can affect a person’s ability to get around, but the majority of people with MS remain mobile for the remainder of their lifetime. One study surveying people with MS found that just 12 percent use a wheelchair or scooter for mobility and 19 percent use a cane to walk.
People With MS Can Still Work
Most people who are diagnosed with MS try to continue living a normal life, which includes going to work every day as they did before. One recent study found that as many as 44 percent of people of MS are currently in the workforce, and today that number may even be higher.
Multiple Sclerosis and Muscular Dystrophy (MD) Are Not the Same
People often confuse MS and MD, but the two diseases are not the same. While MD affects the muscles themselves, MS impairs the nerves that control the muscles, and the two diseases have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
People Get MS at All Ages
Diseases that deteriorate the body (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) tend to be associated with old age, but the idea that only the elderly can get MS is a myth. In fact, the majority of people who are diagnosed with MS are anywhere between 20 and 50 years old. Children and teenagers can get it, too.
People with MS Can Exercise
For years, people with MS were told to avoid the gym at all costs, but that all changed in 1996 when researchers at the University of Utah discovered that working out might actually benefit people with the disease. According to the study, sufferers of MS may experience better cardiovascular health, improved strength, better bladder and bowel functions, and less fatigue after working out.
Smoking Increases Your Risk of Developing MS
Unfortunately, even ex-smokers are more likely to develop MS than those who have never touched a cigarette. And the more you smoke, the greater your risk of developing MS becomes. According to Health, people who smoke at least two packs of cigarettes a day are five times more susceptible. As if that isn’t bad enough, know that This Is What One Cigarette a Day Does to Your Body.
There Is No One Test to Diagnose MS
Since there is no single test to diagnose a person with MS, doctors use an elaborate process of elimination to determine whether a person has the disease. Several tests and procedures involved in the process include a thorough neurological exam, an MRI, and blood tests ruling out other diseases like lupus. In order for an MS diagnosis to be foolproof, the physician must first rule out all other diagnoses, and find evidence of damage in at least two different areas of the central nervous system.
MS Impacts Everyone Differently
Doctors are still learning about what MS is and how it affects the body. Like snowflakes, everyone’s case of MS is different, and no two people deal with the disease in the same way.
Women With MS Can Get Pregnant
Women who are diagnosed with MS often worry that they won’t be able to bear children, but studies show that this isn’t the case. Not only is there no evidence to say that MS impacts fertility, but pregnancy also reduces the number of MS relapses. Though relapses increase by an estimated 20 to 40 percent for the first three to six months post-childbirth, they bear no long-term affects.
Genetics Play a Role
Genetics aren’t the only thing that determine a person’s likelihood of developing MS, but they certainly do play a role. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, first-degree relatives of someone with MS have a 2.5 to 5 percent chance of developing MS, compared to just a 0.1 percent chance for the average person. And if someone has an identical twin with MS, their chances rise dramatically to 25 percent.
The Most Common Symptom Is Fatigue
Surprisingly, the most common (and life-altering) symptom associated with MS is fatigue. An estimated 75 to 90 percent of people who suffer from MS report suffering from fatigue that affects their everyday life.
It Is Possible For MS To Go into Remission
Similar to the herpes simplex virus, MS will often go into remission with all signs and symptoms disappearing, while the disease itself remains in the body. Most people experience relapses after a certain time, but medicine helps keep these remissions further and further apart.
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