The neurological condition known as Multiple Sclerosis is a long lasting condition which is thought to affect more than 100,000 people living in the UK. It is typically diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40, but can occur in both younger and older individuals. It is far more common in women than men. In fact, three times as many women have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). There are three main types of MS: relapsing remitting, secondary progressive, and primary progressive. In relapsing remitting MS, people have distinct attacks, but symptoms fade. With secondary progressive MS, there is a steady and sustained build-up of symptom over time. Primary progressive MS is less common and those with this type experience a gradual increase of symptoms rather than separate attacks. Even patients diagnosed with the same type of MS may experience the disease differently.
The exact cause of MS is unknown, but it’s thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People suffering from MS experience a breakdown of the protective protein layer around their nerves, known as the myelin. This makes it more difficult for messages from the brain to reach other areas of the body. Symptoms of MS can include vision problems, balance and dizziness issues, fatigue, loss of bladder control, and stiffness or muscle spasms. As it progresses, some patients may also experience difficulty swallowing, tremors, speech difficulties, and cognitive issues.
Living with Multiple Sclerosis
Because early signs and symptoms of MS can be different in every patient, diagnosing the condition can be difficult. It can take several months for a neurologist to accurately diagnose MS. Although there is no cure, treatments exist to help alleviate stress and reduce symptoms, and minimize relapses. These options include dietary changes, exercise, medications, and other therapies. Despite these treatments, the loss of mobility and muscle control can be frustrating and stressful. Self-care can become increasingly difficult, but medical aids can help ease this situation.
MS can impact every facet of a person’s life. Appropriate medical devices can help patients retain some independence and reduce stress.
Muscle stiffness, dizziness, and balance issues can be incredibly tiring and may lead to slips and falls in the shower. Products like grab rails, shower seats, extra-long handled sponges, and safety aids help patients retain their independence and dignity while in the bath or shower.
Seemingly simple tasks like buttoning and zipping clothes can be quite difficult for someone with MS. Devices like button hooks, zipper pulls, sock pulls, long-handled shoe horns, and Velcro belts all help make the daily task of dressing easier.
Tremors and weak muscles can make feeding oneself quite difficult. Specialized cutlery, plate surrounds, plate guards, electric can openers, and many other devices make eating and drinking much easier for MS patients.
Balance concerns and dizziness are common among MS patients. Walking sticks, quad canes help provide stability and prevent falls while walking. As the disease progresses, items like walkers and wheelchairs can help patients maintain their independence and self-esteem.
Sitting and standing can be difficult due to the balance issues common with MS. Items such as portable commodes, toilet support rails, and toilet lifts can help patients retain their dignity and stay safe in the bathroom.