MS and Caregiving: #100outof100

Dr. Phil shocked many viewers this past spring when he stated that “… 100 times out of 100 this won’t work” if partners care for partners with disability.

Whoa. It’s painful to even read that sentence, isn’t it?

Many of you watched the episode or heard about the comment and had a strong reaction. To open up the conversation about MS and caregiving on the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook page, we posted an article by Dan and Jennifer Digmann that was a response to Dr. Phil’s inflammatory comment. More than 100 of you Continue reading

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My Former Self: Reflections from the Community

For those with MS, it can be difficult to adapt to the physical and emotional changes that can accompany life with a chronic, debilitating condition. For some, the real pain of MS comes from not being able to be the person you once were, and one of the most difficult adjustments is the loss of your former self. For many, it can be extremely difficult to come to terms with losing this version of themselves, and some may even find themselves mourning that loss. We recently asked Continue reading

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The Benefits and Challenges of FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides job protection to those that need to miss time from work due to illness, or who need to provide care for a family member with a serious health condition. One of our MultipleSclerosis.net contributors, Donna, recently posted a great piece on FMLA, explaining the process, including who qualifies and how it works. In response to this post, we received so many insightful comments from our community members, conveying their personal stories and challenges with FMLA, that we compiled some of their experiences to share.

Granting time to focus on what’s important

There are many great benefits of FMLA, Continue reading

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Living with the MS Itch

Uncontrollable. Insatiable. Seemingly brought on for no reason.

The scratching that can accompany an MS diagnosis is one of the most frustrating symptoms to deal with. It’s a neuropathic itch — that is, caused by messed up nerves signals from the brain, which makes the itching sensation impossible to stop. No amount of scratching lessens its intensity.

To learn more about how you cope with this symptom, we reached out on the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook page, asking, “Have you ever had that uncontrollable itch that feels like bugs crawling all over you?”

More than 300 of you reacted, and more than 70 of you weighed in. Here’s what you had to say.

“I have bruised myself by scratching.”

Because the itching is a signal switched on by the brain, there’s little you can do physically to change what’s happening. But the desire to act is relentless. Several of you mentioned that you can’t help but continue scratching, even when it leads to bleeding or bruises.

“OMG yes, and it’s insane! Sometimes I am positive that a spider is crawling on me and there isn’t. I have bruised myself by scratching.”

“Always, it’s horrible. It won’t stop being itchy till I scratch the hell out of it, then I end up with sores and scratch marks.”

“Yes, for me it started about six years before I was diagnosed with MS.”

For many of you, the itching came on long before you even knew you had MS. For others of you, you didn’t know that the itching was related to MS until you read the Facebook post on MultipleSclerosis.net. Until you have the MS diagnosis and the understanding that this itching is related to the diagnosis, it can seem mysterious — which is more frustrating than anything else. Too often, we can’t even begin to treat that which we can’t categorize and name.

“Yes, three years before I actually had the initial onset of my disease. It was absolutely horrible. Now I get itching on the palms of my hands and fingers. It’s really annoying more than anything.”

“Yes, but I didn’t realize it had anything to do with my MS!”

“Just as you are going to sleep is when it hits hard.”

Although the onset of symptoms can appear random, it can be triggered by stress. For many people, stress worsens after the workday, as that is when the mind no longer has tasks to focus on, and instead, can start spinning with worry. Thus, bedtime can be one of the most challenging times of day as we lie in bed with nothing but our thoughts.

“OMG, I have been having this the past couple days. Feel like my skin is crawling. More so in the evening.”

“Yes, and it’s like fire ants! Just as you are going to sleep is when it hits hard.”

“Yes, very frequently especially at night along with a feeling of electric shock on nerves on my right side.”

“This is the only symptom that seems to be better when I’m taking my Neurontin.”

Several anti-epileptic drugs, including Neurontin, aka Gabapentin, and Lacosamide, aka Vimpat, were developed to treat seizures caused by shingles, but have also been found to provide relief to the nerve-related problem of the MS itching. Several of you named these drugs, citing that they alleviate much of the itching. If this sounds like a solution that might work for you, start with your regular doctor or ask about seeing a neurologist.

“Honestly, this is the only symptom that seems to be better when I’m taking my Neurontin… The random creepy-crawling feeling and the pins-and-needles feeling, which is nice. I used to feel like something was crawling across my face and biting me.”

“Your MS specialist should be able to help you. If it’s something that is out of control, a drug such as Gabapentin can help. Some topical routes can help soothe but because it’s neurological, just know this is coming from the brain. Cool clothing and lowering your stress can help. If needed, talk to your neurologist.”

“I take Vimpat, a seizure med, to control it—because otherwise, I will scratch till I bleed and bruise.”

“My doctor gives me a prescription itch cream.”

For others, a simpler solution may work. Anti-itch creams are easier to get and might be a good choice for a first step in solving the problem. Beyond creams, there are alternative therapies available as well.

“This happens all the time. I used to take pills to stop the itching, but Medicare quit covering them. So now my doctor gives me a prescription itch cream and it helps!”

“I go for light treatment. It works!”

We want to say thank you to everyone who shared their stories and solutions on the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook page. Check out the comic that inspired these responses here.

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What People with MS Wish Others Could See

The invisible disease. The silent struggle. Unlike other diseases, Multiple Sclerosis can largely present only internally, mainly as pain and fatigue. This, in turn, creates an entirely new kind of pain—the pain of being alone in suffering. When others don’t know what is wrong, or can’t fully understand what it is like to live with MS day in and day out, most living with the diagnosis often forgo speaking up, and instead, learn to cope quietly.

But you don’t need to be quiet here. Continue reading

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Living with MS Years Before Diagnosis

In a recent article posted on MultipleSclerosis.net, author Kim Dolce describes her first appointment with her neurologist upon receiving her MS diagnosis. The doctor began questioning her history of childhood illnesses—and this caused the floodgates to open. She realized she had been living with MS for decades. Suddenly, the pains she suffered in her legs at age 8, and the loss of balance that caused a bike crash at age 12 made sense.

Looking back, she could see that these previously inexplicable problems were no longer inexplicable. This disease had been part of her life all along.

Learning this doesn’t necessarily change her treatment plan, but it does bring Dolce some clarity along with some peace. Her past makes sense.

We recently posted her article on the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook page, and asked if you related to her experience. More than 100 of you reacted to the post, and many of you commented.

Here’s what you had to say.

“I can remember the aching legs from age 8.”

For many of you, Dolce’s article brought clarity to your own pasts, making sense of events and experiences that otherwise went unexplained. Because you didn’t receive the diagnosis until much later in life, you went through childhood and early adulthood with pains and aches that didn’t fit with what the doctors said. At the time, the pain brought confusion and frustration.

“I was diagnosed at 59, but when reading the above article, I can remember the aching legs from age 8 or so every night, sobbing my heart out and the doctor telling my mother that it was growing pains. That could very well have been the first sign that I was a candidate for MS!”

“I fell often before doctors knew what the problem was.”

“I’ve had undiagnosed symptoms for 40+ years.”

Unfortunately, this scenario seems all too common: That many of you lived with symptoms for decades. As challenging as the physical symptoms were and are, the problem was exacerbated by the not knowing. There’s no community of people to relate to if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Often, there’s less empathy for problems that don’t come with a diagnosis. Many people find it hard to understand or relate to pains and problems that aren’t named. And only when there is a diagnosis can people understand what is happening to you.

“I’ve had undiagnosed symptoms for 40+ years. I was only recently diagnosed in 2016.”

“I was diagnosed back in 1987 couple flare-ups then and one about 25 years ago. Nothing since but extreme bouts of fatigue!”

“Now that I know what’s going on, it’s a lot easier to accept what’s happening.”

Although getting the news of your diagnosis is never easy, for some of you, the diagnosis was a turning point that brought some relief. The diagnosis meant that you now knew what you were dealing with. There was suddenly a map—a direction that others had taken, so at least you knew how to handle this place called MS.

“Wouldn’t have helped knowing early in because there was no treatment. Soon as I was diagnosed, I began treatment, which helped immensely.”

“Now that I know what’s going on, it’s a lot easier to accept what’s happening with my body. I may not like the diagnosis, but I can now get the proper treatment for my future.”

We want to say thank you to everyone who participated in this ongoing conversation about MS. We hope that this post, as with every other one we share, serves in shedding light on the experience of living with MS, and fosters a sense of connection and community among readers.

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Startled Awake by Multiple Sclerosis

For anyone living with multiple sclerosis, nights can be a time of stress and worry. Just as you tuck into bed, spasms and tremors grip your legs and body, making sleep impossible. Some of you have just discovered this painful side effect, while others of you have been living with this symptom for years and have found ways to cope.

We posed a question Continue reading

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Relapses in RRMS, SPMS, and PPMS

MS Under the Surface - MS Relapse

Although each individual’s journey with MS can be incredibly varied, there is one common factor experienced by nearly all individuals with MS at some point throughout their journey with the condition: relapse. Relapses are all too common for individuals across varying types of MS, despite common misconceptions. Contrary to the names of the various types of MS, relapses can Continue reading

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MS and the RSVP

Do you go with the last minute RSVP? Or end up canceling plans?

Most invitations sound great when they come, but for many with MS, it’s simply impossible to predict the way one might feel the day of the event. Symptoms can change, flare-ups can occur, and/or exhausting fatigue might set in. The desire to go may still strongly be there, but the physical strength and wellbeing are not. A response of “maybe I’ll be there” is often necessary for those living with MS, and sometimes, it’s the Continue reading

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Dealing with MS-Related Falls?

MS and some of its related symptoms, such as numbness, dizziness, weakness, loss of balance, tremors, and more, can lead to an increased risk in experiencing falls for those living with the condition. One of the MultipleSclerosis.net contributors, Devin, recently posted an article about his life with MS-related falls, and how he copes with these potentially frustrating or embarrassing situations. After this article was published, we received an incredible response from our community on their experiences with falling, and how they cope with this often-scary situation. Below are some of the amazing responses we received. Continue reading

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