Signs of an MS Relapse

When you have a relapse of multiple sclerosis (known as an exacerbation or flare-up), nerve signals are disrupted due to damage in the brain or spinal cord. As a result, you may experience new or returning symptoms. An MS relapse is defined as one lasting longer than 24 hours and occurring at least 30 days after any previous relapse. The duration, severity, and symptoms of relapses are all different. Here are a few common signs of an MS relapse.

Weakness

Normal messages from the brain to the body are disrupted when the protective covering of nerve fibers is damaged. When such signals are disturbed, the body stops working properly. Things you used to do easily, like opening a jar or turning a doorknob, can seem challenging during a relapse. You may be experiencing a relapse if you have sudden or worsening weakness that does not go away.

Vision Impairment

It’s possible that you’re starting to relapse if your eyesight is blurry or you’re seeing double. As the optic nerve becomes inflamed, some people lose their depth or color vision. Vision issues can be caused by taking a hot shower or bath, or by a viral infection like the flu, but they are just momentary and should go gone within a day.

Numbness

One of the most typical indicators of a recurrence in multiple sclerosis is numbness. It’s possible to lose so much feeling in your hands or other affected body parts that it’s difficult to use them. You might be unable to write or hold a cup of coffee. Please pay a visit to your doctor if your numbness is new or getting worse.

Cognitive Challenges

It’s aggravating to lose track of where you put your vehicle keys or to have to reread the same phrase several times simply to grasp the meaning. MS can impair your mind in a variety of ways, especially as the disease develops, affecting with memory, focus, language, and information processing. Any new difficulty thinking clearly or recalling past events could be a  sign that you may be experiencing a relapse.

Feeling Dizzy

It’s uncomfortable to feel lightheaded or unstable on your feet, but it’s a frequent symptom of MS relapses. Damage to the areas of your brain that control balance causes dizziness. In the short term, there are medications that can help relieve the ‘room is spinning’ sensation, but if it lasts longer than a day, you may be experiencing an MS relapse.

If you suspect that you are experiencing an MS relapse, please reach out to your doctor to share your concerns. What you are experiencing could possibly be signs of an MS relapse.

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Could This Be A Relapse?

On MSAA’s Helpline we often hear questions about MS relapses and what constitutes a relapse. Individuals ask whether the symptoms they are currently experiencing are just due to their MS or if an exacerbation of symptoms may be occurring. These are great questions that warrant valid and informative responses. The challenging piece of this, on the part of the healthcare professional at times, is helping to identify a true MS relapse from a pseudoexacerbation.

To be diagnosed with a true relapse, there must be certain factors at play. Individuals will either experience new symptoms or a worsening/recurrence of existing symptoms. These acute symptoms have to be present for at least 24-48 hours, without signs of other infections or fevers. This is where it can become tricky identifying a relapse from a pseudoexacerbation. Because with the latter, one can experience a temporary worsening of symptoms without inflammation or nerve damage occurring. A pseudo flare can result from illness/infection, fever, stress, heat sensitivity and other factors.

It’s important to discuss these differences with your healthcare team so that you can better communicate if you’re feeling any changes in your symptoms. Ask your doctor what signs you should look for if a relapse may be present, and when you should reach out to their office for assistance. Talk about ways a relapse could be treated and managed if it occurs. And make a plan for what you should do if you’re not able to get in touch with your doctor’s office. Some individuals will seek emergency medical services if needed when they’re experiencing worsening symptoms. So ask your doctor if/when you should seek care in this manner. Asking questions about MS relapses can be an integral part of your overall treatment plan and follow-up care.

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Pumpkin Coffee Cake

I love fall baking. This cake is made with pumpkin puree and lots of spices. I also added in sour cream to add a bit more flavor and moistness to the coffee cake.

Adding streusel kicks it up a notch and tastes so delicious. This recipe will satisfy your cravings for fall while also making your kitchen smell amazing. Hands down scrumptious!

Ingredients

For the streusel:

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces sour cream, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup applesauce
  • 2 large eggs

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray the bottom of an 8-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Make the streusel:

  1. In a small bowl, combine all the streusel ingredients with a fork until crumbly.

Make the cake:

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, brown sugar, and granulated sugar.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the pumpkin puree, oil, sour cream, applesauce, and eggs. Mix well.
  3. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the streusel. Spread the remaining batter over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining streusel.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Happy Baking

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Add A Little Humor

Throughout life there are moments that call for certain emotions and behaviors as a way to react and cope with things. There are times that call for seriousness and focus, sadness, or frustration. But there are also times that call for humor and lightheartedness. These elements can help keep you going sometimes, especially through challenging periods. Seeking out humor is a task everyone should try daily.

Some of us are fortunate to have naturally funny and humorous characters as part of our day to day lives. My husband is one of these people and can make me laugh-especially in times where I don’t want to be amused, haha. He has a knack for it, a talent that comes so easy to find humor in almost any situation. I’m grateful for the humor he adds to my life each day, even when it’s not wanted. He knows in those moments where I become too serious or overly stressed, I can probably use a good laugh to break through nerves and tensions. And he’s usually right.

I know we can’t have humor and laughter 24/7, but I think it’s important to make room for it whenever possible. There are too many obstacles, traumas and tragedies that plague the world. Be it illness, loss, or some other type of devastation—we don’t know what the next moment will bring. But amidst this we can find light, hope, and humor to manage our feelings about what we can’t control. If humor can be a way to help cope with the unimaginable, then bring on the laughs. Because at the end of the day if we can control our reactions and emotions, why not add humor into the mix.

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5 Years of Camaraderie and Community

Living with a chronic condition — such as multiple sclerosis — can feel isolating at times, particularly during a pandemic. Especially in this last year and half, we have all learned the value of connection with other people. One way that people affected by MS have managed to connect and create a sense of community for the last five years is through MSAA’s online peer forum, My MSAA Community.

My MSAA Community is a free, online peer-to-peer forum for members to share their MS experiences. The community is a safe space that allows users to post a question and get answers from members of the forum, share their MS journey, connect with others, and contribute to ongoing conversations.

For the past five years, members of the MS community have come to this online forum looking for advice and connection from someone living a similar experience. With more than 6,500 members and more than 16,000 posts, you can find:

  • Coping strategies for difficult MS symptoms
  • Tips on how to talk to your healthcare team
  • Discussion about different therapy options
  • Support for some of the more challenging aspects of living with MS
  • Fun stories, and more

Join My MSAA Community and help us celebrate five years of camaraderie and connection for people affected by multiple sclerosis.

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Finding Joy in Life

Do you ever find it difficult to find happiness in the midst of hard times? Even in the face of adversity, having a mental list of simple behaviors to try out every day may help you feel happier. You might find that doing something as easy as listening to music improves your mood and helps you on your journey to finding joy in life.

Whatever joy means to you, you may tap into it in surprisingly easy ways, even when it’s tough to remember what it’s like to be joyful.

So, here are 3 easy-to-implement suggestions for finding joy in life during challenging circumstances.

1. Find the things in life that make you happy, and then do them.

2. Always take a moment to express gratitude.

3. Stay connected to the good relationships you’ve established in life.

Remember friends, do what brings you joy. Demonstrate thankfulness. And stay connected to your relationships. You are amazing, and you can do this!

Finding Joy in Life
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Backyard Clutter

By Gina Ross Murdoch

As a result of the pandemic and of being more aware of my surroundings, I have found a new love for gardening. This is what happens when you are spending more time at home and taking stock of your environment. I see my growing love of gardening as a metaphor for what has been going on over the last year and a half and how so many of us are looking in our own backyards (actual or virtual) for joy, comfort, and beauty.

I started tackling a very large project in the backyard feeling underprepared and overwhelmed. Landscaping has not been a love of mine in the past, so I was approaching this large project as a novice. Questions filled my mind including: How long would this project   take? Do I have the time to accomplish the task? What expertise do I need to select plantings properly? And will the project be a success? However, I was determined to dive in and create a beautiful rose garden that would provide endless beauty and delight to my family.

Rose garden before

I decided to take the project one small step at a time giving myself adequate time in between to rest, reflect, and approach the project each time with a renewed sense of excitement. There were days when the task was daunting and times that I truly believed that my vision would never be realized.  But bit by bit, square foot by square foot, I removed all the brush and got down to beautiful brown dirt. At this point, I had removed all the distractions and was down to a blank slate. I now had the opportunity to decide what I wanted to plant. I had eliminated all the backyard clutter and arrived at a space where there were endless possibilities.

I chose all roses including yellow, white, pink, red, and multicolor for my planter. I then built a rock wall around this beautiful new area to preserve the work that I had done and highlight the beauty of the arrangement. When I stepped back and looked around, I was proud of taking on such a large project, getting way out of my comfort zone and trying something new.

Rose garden after

During these challenging times, I have spoken to so many who have found ways to look into their own metaphorical backyards, clean out clutter, and plant new ideas. That introspection and re-evaluation is never easy. It often pushes you out of your comfort zone, but that is where new growth is planted and thrives. We have all needed to adapt, re-evaluate, reflect, and change. Approaching a project that will both challenge and delight you can be a transformative experience. Mine centered on gardening. Your project could be much different but still lead you to a new sense of accomplishment. I only offer the suggestion that you give yourself time to advance and rest. Both are critical when traveling your journey of discovery.

I hope you will all find delight in tending to your own gardens whether that may be physically, virtually, mentally, or spiritually, and I hope you enjoy the fruits of your labor and learn as much as I have.

Rose garden - yellow rose closeup

*Gina Ross Murdoch is a seasoned executive in non-profit management and has served as MSAA’s President and CEO since 2016. Her career includes leadership positions with chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as well as the American Diabetes Association. Earlier, she spent 14 years overseeing development activities at a large chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, leading explosive growth initiatives and ground-breaking strategic projects. You can contact her at president@mymsaa.org to share your thoughts on how MSAA is improving lives today, or to learn how to get involved in our mission.

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Baked Parmesan Zucchini Rounds

Baked Parmesan Zucchini Rounds are a great way to use delicious summer zucchini! I have a gardening plot in my hometown community garden and my zucchini are thriving. 

This simple side dish is quick and easy and requires only 2 ingredients!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-sized zucchinis.
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional.

Instructions

  1. Place oven rack in center position of oven. Preheat to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray like PAM.
  2. Wash and dry zucchini and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange zucchini rounds on prepared pan, with little to no space between them. If desired, lightly sprinkle zucchini with garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use a small spoon to spread a thin layer of Parmesan cheese on each slice of zucchini.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until Parmesan turns a light golden brown.   Serve immediately.
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Summer Travel Planning

I think it’s safe to say that this summer, so far, is shaping up to look a lot different than last years. Being in the height of the pandemic and COVID cases still on the rise at that time, the summer was just another period to get through living in a changed world. With individuals having the opportunity to be vaccinated this year, the summer months are being celebrated once again. And hopefully in a safe manner. For some this will mean getting the chance to travel again and thinking about their accessibility needs in doing so.

Traveling can be an exciting and exhilarating experience for those who enjoy it. So, making plans and preparations that will ensure the trip is a great one is an important step. For those living with a disability, having the right accessibility measures in place for travel is imperative. From the planning stages to the endpoint of the journey there are different factors to consider. The destination itself, the mode of transport, accessibility of sites and attractions, and accommodations are all elements significant to the plan. It can sound tedious and like a lot of work but making sure the trip will be safe and enjoyable is the ultimate goal.

For those making travel plans, COVID has unfortunately added another layer to the planning piece this season. Checking with destinations on their COVID policies and procedures and with the mode of transport you plan to take are additional steps now to ensure safety. If able, working with a travel agent for assistance planning your trip can help in this initial phase. For many destinations they have websites for visitors and tourists traveling to their area and offer helpful information and resources online.

If you plan to travel this summer, be sure to consider what your travel and care needs look like. Are you using a mobility device, do you need your accommodations to have specific accessibility features? Would you be traveling with medications and need documentation from your doctor? Are the sites you’re visiting accessible? What about restroom accessibility? Trails, walking paths, street and sidewalk access? Are you heat sensitive with your MS symptoms and need to think of climate? These are just some aspects to think of when making plans for your journey. It can be fun but making sure it’s also safe and accommodating for you is key.

Wishing you a safe and pleasant journey!  

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MSAA’s MRI Access Program

Did you know that MSAA’s MRI Access Program provides financial assistance for Cranial and C-Spine MRIs?

MSAA’s MRI Access Program assists with the payment of Cranial (brain) and C-spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for qualified individuals who have no medical insurance or cannot afford their insurance costs and require an MRI to help determine a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis or evaluate current MS disease progression.

What does the program offer?

The MRI Access Program helps financially with New MRIs and Past MRIs up to a maximum of $750 per MRI. So, whether you need help paying for future MRIs or if you are staring at an MRI bill you recently received in the mail. MSAA’s MRI Access Program is here to help!

How do I apply?

It’s simple! You can either apply online directly through our website or you can fill out a paper application and send it back via email, mail, or fax.

•      To apply online, click on this link https://mymsaa.org/msaa-help/mri/

•      To print out a paper application, click on this link https://mymsaa.org/PDFs/app_mri.pdf

Are you mailing your application?

No problem! You can mail it to the following address:

Attn: MRI Access Program

375 Kings Highway North

Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

You can also fax your application to MSAA at 856-488-8257 or you can email it to MRI@mymsaa.org.

Want to learn more?

Feel free to give me a call at 800-532-7667 ext. 142, and I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Selena Fisher, Manager of Mission Delivery-MRI

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