ABCs of the MS Diagnostic Process

ABCs of the MS diagnostic process

A – Ask a Neurologist

Is it MS, or is it something else? If you are experiencing numbness and tingling in your body, these symptoms could be caused by MS. On the other hand, there are many illnesses that easily mimic MS symptoms. To help figure out what is going on, the next step is to make an appointment with your primary care physician. If your doctor suspects MS, you’ll probably be referred to a neurologist for a definitive MS diagnosis.

B – Brain MRI

The MRI scans the brain using a computer, radiofrequency stimulator, and a huge magnet. Good news, MRIs do not expose patients to radiation, and helps doctors get a clear picture of what’s happening in the Brain. The MRI is used to assess the size and location of lesions in persons with multiple sclerosis. Contrast enhancement is often used to help to better assess inflammation and determine if MS is present in the Brain.

C – Consider Your Treatment Options

MS can be treated with a variety of effective FDA-Approved drugs. These medications can be recommended for all three types of MS. There are three main goals of MS treatment. Firstly, is to limit MS activity and development. Secondly, is to lessen the severity and duration of a relapse. And lastly, is to treat MS symptoms. All of these medications are typically administered by a doctor who specializes in MS or a neurologist. To download a list of FDA-Approved MS medications, please click here.

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An ABC Mantra: Always Be Curious

By Stacie Prada

Multiple sclerosis affects brains and spinal cords, and damage affects sensations, movement and cognition. Each person experiences MS uniquely, and what helps one person might not help the next. The right treatments, medications, diet, coping skills, life changes, fitness regimens and lifestyles are different for each person. They also change throughout a person’s life. What works well for one person at diagnosis might not work for the same person years later.

The same is true for every person with or without a chronic illness. One size doesn’t fit all. Yet, I feel strongly that everyone can benefit from approaching ourselves, each other and the world with curiosity.

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MS Highlights – Then and Now

By Debbie Petrina

When my own MS began in 1980, there were only two organizations in the U.S. that supported multiple sclerosis – NMSS and MSAA. Although information and programs were quite scant at the time, development and availability began accelerating during the 1980’s.

There were no personal computers/internet, cell phones, or social media. My first MS peer connection in 1984 was arranged confidentially between myself and another member of the NMSS as a courtesy. Soon after, a team of MS patients began confidential, telephone-peer-counselor training sponsored by the NMSS. I was one of them.

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ABC Yummy Muffins

Happy New Year!  So many of us are trying to kick of the New Year focusing on health and wellness.  What better way to incorporate a healthy option.  These ABC Muffins (Apple, Banana and Carrot) are moist and delicious and are full of fruits and vegetables.  Perfect as a little snack or pair it with a hot beverage of your choice.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter slightly melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 apple, coarsely grated
  • 1 carrot, coarsely grated
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ salt

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time.
  4. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Stir in the apple, banana and carrot.
  6. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.
  7. Fold in half the dry flour mixture, followed by the milk and add remaining dry flour mixture.
  8. Divide mixture into a muffin pan.  Fill each space 2/3 full.
  9. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
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Some of the ABCs

Living with MS is a unique and different experience for each person it affects. No two people will have exactly the same symptoms or disease course, but many still find commonalities in their experiences and feelings when it comes to the condition. MS tries to bring a lot of baggage with it, but many find ways to cope and manage the disease in their own way that works for them. This is done with the help and support of healthcare professionals, family, friends, and others in the MS community. As we focus on some of the ABCs of MS this month according to each person’s view of it, I’ve highlighted some factors I’ve seen relate to MS below.

A: Some of the A’s I’ve seen correlate to MS include Acceptance, Adapting, and Adjusting. Hearing a diagnosis of MS brings a period of trying to accept the diagnosis and coming to terms with it. Acceptance is not an easy feat and can take time. It can come in waves and show up again at later points in the disease course too. So, it’s a step that individuals may find themselves faced with multiple times. Finding ways to help accept it can look different and change too and is unique to each person. Adapting and adjusting to some of the changes MS can create is something people find themselves doing often as well. Making changes and modifying things can help maintain balance and expectations. If routines/schedules/tasks need adjusting to help fit your needs better, take time to make these changes so they work for you.

B: B’s associated with MS can include Building and Backup. Building relates to the education and knowledge piece of MS. Building upon information about the disease and continuously learning new facts and resources is an important piece to the process. Continue to build upon your strengths and goals and finding what you enjoy too. Backup refers to the support you put behind you when dealing with MS. Whether it be your own skillsets and strengths, support from others within your circle, education and resources, and health information. It never hurts to have a little backup when needed.

C: The C’s related to MS incorporate Community and Care. Within the MS space there is a great sense of community that many individuals rely and depend on for support. It is vast and has many layers that consist of healthcare teams, MS organizations, peer and familial support, counseling help, and other pieces individuals connect with throughout their MS journey. Community support is a great tool in helping to manage the disease and finding assistance. Care is a crucial piece to the puzzle as well. Finding healthcare, personal, wellness, and emotional care aid is significant in helping cope with the disease and all its factors.  

It’s hard to imagine that one disease can have so many differing views of it and be experienced in such vastly different ways, but MS can and does. But no matter how unique each person’s course of it is, there’s still so much to connect and relate to about it. No one is alone in this.  

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Deborah Tomushunas – January 2022 Artist of the Month

Each year, we feature the work of artists affected by multiple sclerosis in our annual MSAA Art Showcase. We receive many wonderful submissions from across the country and are delighted to share the work of these artists and their inspirational stories with you, including highlighting one artist each month as our Artist of the Month. This month, we are proud to feature artist Deborah Tomushunas of Marietta, NY:

Deborah Tomushunas Artist of the Month's artwork entitled Savannah Trolley
Savannah Trolley

About the Artist – Deborah Tomushunas

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Ask the Expert – Mental and Emotional Health

Featuring Barry A. Hendin, MD
MSAA’s Chief Medical Officer

Question: As we enter into the New Year, what strategies do you recommend for positive mental and emotional health?

Answer: Of all the questions I’ve been asked over the past couple of years this is probably the most difficult to answer… and to answer briefly. For some people, positive mental and emotional health comes more easily and naturally. It doesn’t require a strategy or a lot of work. Perhaps it’s the good luck of genetics or a positive and nurturing upbringing. But clearly for some people, happiness is more difficult and requires more work. For the latter and probably much larger group, it does require more work, and more effort, and maybe a strategy. It’s clear to me that the effort is worth undertaking!

There is “no one size fits all” answer. Each person will need to seek one’s own best path to mental and emotional wellbeing. For people with MS, that path should include a focus on physical as well as mental wellness. On the physical side, wellness should include regular exercise, a healthy but not a punitive diet, avoidance of tobacco, and a regular sleep pattern. On the social and emotional side, it should include a maintenance of your human connections, whether that be with your family or your friends or your religious community or your general community. It’s important to establish what is meaningful for you and purposeful for you! Maintaining meaning and purpose in your life is essential.

For people with and without multiple sclerosis, maintenance of good general health is important. People with MS do much better if the other aspects of their health are attended to, including blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and individual issues such as control of blood sugars for people with diabetes.

However, for many people, emotional wellbeing or happiness requires a more direct intervention. Depression and anxiety are particularly common in people with MS. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors can be helpful in treating depression and anxiety, both pharmacologically and non-pharmacologically.  

Achieving better mental and emotional heath is an important and realistic goal.

To our MS family and community, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year!

Barry A. Hendin, MD, is a neurologist and Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Arizona. He is also Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Banner University Medical Center and Clinical Professor of Neurology at the University of Arizona Medical School.

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