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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What Those With MS Have To Say About The Most Challenging Chores

There is a shift in the quality of life when managing a chronic condition. That is no different for those who live with multiple sclerosis (MS). There are always new challenges to overcome and new physical limitations to face and fear.

It goes without saying, managing daily life with MS takes a significant mental and physical toll. Activities and simple tasks that once were taken for granted, now take so much energy and strength.

We were curious about the impact chores have on those who live with this impactful condition. To learn more, we turned to the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook page. We asked community members to tell us: “What household chores or tasks tend to be the hardest due to MS?”

With nearly 900 comments, let’s see what those with MS have to say.

Chores that require bending and standing

Actions that involve prolonged bending or standing are difficult for you. It is hard to maintain balance when standing. Your body starts aching, and the room starts spinning. This can be frustrating because many tasks involve being upright!

“Yard work. Cannot do bending and standing up.”

“Cleaning the tub! Leaning my head down then standing up makes me dizzy and off-balance.”

“Loading the dishwasher throughout the day and then unloading it.”

“The worst is grocery shopping. Too long on my legs, and they swell, cramp, and go numb.”

Chores that force you to move around

MS drains your energy. Trying to complete any chore is exhausting. You need to rest after tasks that once took no time or thought.

“Putting everything away is exhausting, and where I am alone, it just piles up.”

“Vacuuming, so I bought a Roomba. Love it!”

“Sometimes, I don’t have the strength to brush my teeth.”

“Changing the sheets and taking a shower. Both wipe me out.”

Anything that makes you hot

Many of you experience flares when you overheat. From the weather, exertion, or standing over a hot stove, heat is a struggle. You find tasks done around heat or that cause you to sweat challenging.

“Any outside work in the summer months.”

“Sweeping and mopping because I get hot.”

“Dishes! I love cleaning, but the hot water has me overheated in seconds.”

“Cooking is hard because any and all heat drains me.”

Mental tasks

It is often hard to maintain focus with MS. Brain fog settles in, and you forget what you are doing. Chores requiring mental focus wind up half done or overlooked.

“I do alright with physical chores. It’s the ones that require my brain that get me into trouble!”

“For me, creating and sticking to a meal plan and paying the bills. I have to set up bill pay from the bank as soon as the bill shows up. If I don’t, they are late, and I end up paying fees.”

“I forget where I’m up to with a recipe and adding ingredients, or if I’m making something from memory, I forget what I’m making!”

Tasks requiring motor skills

Muscle weakness and losing coordination result from MS. Tasks requiring motor skills are tough. Navigating steps, lifting, folding, or meal prep require attention and extra time.

“Laundry! Folding is so hard!”

“Getting up on step stools.”

“Peeling potatoes is really hard for me.”

“Climbing steps with laundry baskets.”

“Dusting is the worst. I knock everything over. I’ve broken almost everything breakable in my house.”

Thank you

Maintaining everyday chores with the limitations that come with MS can be mentally difficult. Please don’t ever hesitate to ask for help if it’s what your body needs. Resting your body and recognizing your limitations is not a sign of weakness – though that’s what society leads you to believe. It’s performing an act of service to your body that holds you up daily.

There is connection in community and we appreciate everyone’s insights. A member affirmed the value of this space and responses to the prompt.

“Thank you to everyone who posts. It makes me feel less crazy when I can see others have the same challenges. It’s so nice for me to be able to say ‘Me too’ and be able to relate.”

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Happy New Year

As this year comes to a rapid end, I’d like to leave you with something positive to help you get your 2022 off to a great start. As I thought about what I might share with you, I came across this acrostic that truly inspired me. My hope is that it will inspire you as well, and that you will have a Happy New Year.

Happy New Year by Catherine Pulsifer

H appiness depends upon your outlook on life – Find the good in all situations
A ttitude is just as important as ability – Keep your attitude positive
P assion, find yours this year! – Do what you love and you will never work
P ositive thoughts make everything easier – Stay focused and stay positive
Y ou are unique with special gifts, use them – Never forget you have talent

ew beginnings with a new year.
Enthusiasm, a true secret of success.
ishes, may they turn into goals.

ears go by too quickly, enjoy them – Wisdom from your elders, listen
nergy, may you have lots of it – Take care of yourself
A ppreciation of life, don’t take it for granted – Live each day
R elax, take the time to relax in this coming year – Keep a balance in your life

May your holidays be filled with joy and may you have a “Happy New Year.”

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A Slew of Hope

By Doug Ankerman

Having hope is what keeps us going. Hope drives us. Hope motivates. Hope encompasses everything we live for — even the silly things, like these…

Hope I can wear these sweatpants another day.

Hope I can sleep tonight.

Hope I can make it to the bathroom.

Hope the tile floor isn’t wet.

Hope I don’t have to walk through the grass.

Hope it’s not too hot.

Hope it’s not too cold.

Hope no change on my MRI.

Hope I can remember your name.

Hope they have a fork.

Hope I can just “splash-n-spritz” and not take a shower.

Hope my shoes are handy.

Hope I can stay awake at the movie.

Hope they have close parking.

Hope there is shade.

Hope there’s a place to sit.

Hope this post doesn’t go on much longer.

Hope I still have another prescription refill.

Hope my pill-case isn’t lying (This IS Wednesday, right?).

Hope these socks match.

Hope the car has enough gas.

Hope I can open this ketchup packet.

Whoops. Hope Tide-To-Go works on this.

Hope no one sees me dressed like this.

Hope I don’t have to go upstairs again.

Hope my appointment is in the morning.

Hope this isn’t fattening (Who am I kidding).

Hope this isn’t another robocall.

I can’t read this — hope I can find my cheaters.

Hope this ends before I nod-zzzzzzzzzzzz

Hope YOU have a tremendous 2022!

Doug writes goofy things about MS and other stuff on his humor blog at myoddsock.com.

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