MS: What will happen to me?

MS is a long-term health condition that damages the nerves in your brain and spinal cord. It can cause problems with movement, coordination, vision, thinking, memory, bowel and bladder control, and fatigue. In some people, these symptoms can get worse, or new symptoms can develop, over time. In others, symptoms come and go.

But not everyone experiences the same symptoms at the same time. MS is an unpredictable condition - it is difficult to tell how the disease will affect you in the future because no two people are the same.

But there are some clues to help you. Based on your symptoms and the results of medical tests, your doctor may be able to tell you more about the type of MS that you have and what to expect in the future. The way that your MS behaves in the first 5 years can give some clues as to what may happen over the long term.

There are four main types of MS, each with their own pattern of symptoms and progression over time. While knowing which type of MS you have is no guarantee of what will happen in the long term, it can give you some extra information to help you plan for the future.

The four main types of MS are:

  • Relapsing-remitting MS: Most people (about 75%) have this type of MS. With this type, you experience flare-ups of symptoms followed by remissions.
  • Primary progressive MS: Only about 10% to 15% of people with MS have this type. Symptoms slowly but steadily get worse over time.
  • Secondary-progressive MS: This type of MS starts out as relapsing-remitting MS, then changes to a slow but steady worsening of the symptoms. Before disease-modifying medications were available, about half of people with relapsing-remitting MS eventually developed secondary progressive MS. It is not yet known whether these medications will reduce this risk.
  • Progressive-relapsing MS: This is the rarest form of MS, affecting only about 5% of people with MS. With this type, there are symptom flare-ups with a slow steady worsening of the disease between flare-ups.

It's also important to understand that MS can also cause "silent damage" - it can continue to damage your brain and spinal cord even when you aren't having symptoms. The unpredictability of MS can make it tough to deal with, both physically and emotionally. But there are things you can do to make a difference. Some treatments can help slow the progression of certain types of MS and help you manage your symptoms. See "How can MS medications help me?" for more information.

Talk to your doctor about what you can do to fight MS over the long term.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. 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-Staying-the-Course

Why is it hard to stick with MS treatment?

Having trouble sticking with MS treatment? You're not alone. It's never easy to make a long-term change in your routine, and people with MS face other challenges that can make it even tougher to stick with treatment.

MS can make it physically harder to take your medications. For example, the disease-modifying medications are given by injection. Giving yourself an injection takes some skill at the best of times, and it's harder when you're having MS symptoms like coordination problems, fatigue, muscle spasms, tremors, and vision problems. Even opening a pill bottle can be a challenge. What can you do? See "Simple solutions for your MS medications."

Some people with MS may have cognitive problems, such as memory loss, trouble concentrating, or problems with reasoning. About 1 in 10 people has cognitive problems severe enough to interfere with daily activities, including taking medications. This means it can be harder to remember to take your medication, what it's for, or how to use it properly. Fortunately there are many things you can do about this - see "Simple solutions for your MS medications."

Others are reluctant to take their medication because of questions or concerns. If you're starting a long-term treatment, there may be many questions in your mind. What will this medication do for me? Will it keep my MS from getting worse? How long will it continue to work? What are the risks? Will I really be able to give myself an injection? Would another treatment be better?

If you don't know what to expect from the medication and don't have the information you need to weigh the risks and benefits, you may be much less likely to use it. But you can get the information you need. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist. These health professionals can help you understand the possible risks and benefits of treatment for you. They can also help answer any specific questions or concerns you may have.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. 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-Staying-the-Course

How can MS medications help me?

MS is an unpredictable health condition that's with you for life. The good news is that medications are available to help you weather the storm. Some relieve symptoms and help treat flare-ups, and others can also help modify the course of the disease.

Disease-modifying medications can help people with relapsing forms of MS reduce the number of flare-ups. But that's not all - they can also slow down the "silent damage" that MS is doing to your brain and spinal cord, even between flare-ups. Usually, two attacks (flare-ups) are needed for a definite diagnosis of MS.

Disease-modifying medications available in Canada include:

  • Rebif® (interferon beta-1a)
  • Avonex® (interferon beta-1a)
  • Betaseron® (interferon beta-1b)
  • Copaxone® (glatiramer)
  • Tysabri® (natalizumab - used only after one of the other medications in this list is not effective)

There are many other medications that can help you live well with MS. Even though they may not slow the progression of the disease, they can help you manage your symptoms and continue to enjoy your normal activities. These medications include corticosteroids (such as methylprednisolone) for flare-ups, oxybutynin or tolterodine for bladder problems, or tizanidine for muscle spasms. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which medications would be most appropriate for your particular symptoms.

Because MS is a long-term condition, it's important to have a treatment that can go the distance. If you're wondering about the long-term effectiveness of your medication, talk to your doctor.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. 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-Staying-the-Course

Simple solutions for your MS medications

Having trouble taking your medication? These simple solutions can help you get back on track.

Needle phobia

Learning that you have to take an injection as treatment for your MS can often scare some people. Fear is only natural. Keep in mind that you are not alone - think of people with diabetes and the number of injections they must manage in a day! They get through it and so will you.

Before you start your medication, your doctor will refer you to an MS clinic, where a nurse will show you how to give yourself an injection. Most MS medications are given in what is called a subcutaneous (SC) injection. This involves using a very fine needle that is injected into the fat just under the skin. Most people feel SC injections as a quick, small skin prick. Your annual flu shot hurts more, since flu injections reach much deeper into the muscle.

Even if you feel comfortable after your injection lesson at the clinic, you might find that your confidence decreases at home. Ask your doctor or nurse if there are toll-free help lines for your medication, where you can speak with a nurse who can guide you through the process.

Forgetting your medications

At some point in time, you may be on a number of different medications to help with your MS symptoms. For some people, especially those with a busy schedule of work and family demands, you might have trouble keeping your medications straight - what they were for, when to take them, and whether you have already taken your dose that day. One solution is to ask your pharmacist for help.

Your pharmacist can work with your doctor to streamline your medications so there are fewer or more convenient medications to take (i.e., some MS medications don't require refrigeration). Your pharmacist can help you prepare a medication list for you to keep with you. Pharmacists can also organize your medications into a dosette (a special package with labels for each medication, what it's for, and when to take it). Because there are separate slots for each day, it is easier to see whether you've already taken that day's dose.

You may also need to take your medications with you while running errands or if you need to travel for work. How about scheduling your medication injections into your phone or PDA (personal digital assistant), with an alarm to remind you when it's time for your dose?

A helping hand: when MS symptoms affect you

Having trouble using your medications because of your MS symptoms? Symptoms such as vision problems can make it hard to read medication labels, and tremors and coordination problems can lead to difficulties opening childproof containers or giving injections to yourself.

Your pharmacist can provide your medications in a "snap cap," which is an easy-to-open bottle instead of the childproof ones, or your pharmacist can supply a medication bottle opener. Medications supplied in prefilled syringes can eliminate the need to mix the medication yourself.

If you are also having trouble reading the labels, your pharmacist can print labels in a larger print so that you can read them more easily.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. 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-Staying-the-Course