Multiple Sclerosis, Comorbidities, and How to Live with Them
I’m doing all I can to remain calm and keep stressors at bay all in the name of wellness. So I’m trying to meditate at least five minutes a day — find a quiet room to sit tall, close my eyes, and focus on my breath. It’s hard to get rid of the endless nonsense that fills my head but I’m doing the best I can. Om …
I’ve been on a rockier road than usual and sometimes I wonder if G-d is using me as a punching bag or if it all can be blamed on a genetic or environmental factor. Who knows why things happen as they do? The point is that every day is another dance with pain and that’s one dance I’d rather sit out.
In January 2017, my gastroenterologist diagnosed me with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), acid reflux, and a hiatal hernia. As if that weren’t enough I had a bout of diverticulitis. Ouch!
The pain, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue from SIBO are completely overwhelming. Sometimes I dread waking up in the morning and wonder how much more I can take.
It’s hard to get much work done because I can’t find a comfortable sitting position. Most days you’ll find me at home, close to the bathroom, the comfort and security of my bed, and the quality care I get from my husband.
My world keeps getting smaller as my social life slips away. It’s somewhat understandable since I either cancel or refuse invitations.
To make matters worse, my MS reared its ugly head in response to my new diagnoses. My legs, feet, and hands grew weaker and increasingly numb by the day and the fatigue was totally paralyzing. I refused to call the doctor since I knew she’d want to prescribe steroids. The last time I took them I promised I’d never go on them again. But I finally reached a point when enough was enough and I suffered through a three-day course of prednisone.
I endured agonizing gut pain as a side effect of that dreadful medication, and for a few weeks, I felt worse instead of better. When the side effects finally subsided, my body bounced back to where it was before my exacerbation began.
There’s a high level of comorbidities within the MS community, and it’s not atypical for people with MS to also be diagnosed with gastrointestinal issues. According to a February 2018 article from the National Institutes of Health titled “Comorbidity in US patients with multiple sclerosis,” a study analysis based on a sample of 5 million patients from a U.S. database of the IMS Health Real World Data Adjudicated Claims showed (emphasis added):
“The most common comorbidities from 2006 to 2014 were hyperlipidemia and hypertension (25.9%–29.7% of patients within an individual year), followed by gastrointestinal disease (18.4%–21.2% of patients) and thyroid disease (12.9%–17.1% of patients). … The proportion with a claim for hyperlipidemia increased from 2006 to 2009, was stable from 2009 to 2011, and then declined from 2011 to 2014. The proportion with a claim for hypertension generally increased from 2006 to 2013, then declined from 2013 to 2014. The proportion with a claim for gastrointestinal disease, thyroid disease, and anxiety generally increased from 2006 to 2014.”
It’s not surprising that people living with two or more diagnosed illnesses may at one time or another experience loneliness, anxiety, or depression. That is something I’d like to avoid, but how can I live the best life possible despite living with two chronic illnesses?
I spent a good deal of time reading through medical websites and health-related blogs that focus on living with pain and disease. Then I created a list of reminders of what (and what not) to do and wrote them in my journal. I referred to this list every day at first, and now glance at it whenever I need a reminder. I hope you find it helpful. Feel free to add your own reminders to make this list your own.
- Deep breathing/meditation
- Reduce stress
- Increase your amount of sleep
- Cut back on or avoid alcohol
- Join a support group
- Don’t smoke
- Track pain levels and activities
- Eat healthily
- Acupuncture and massages
- Distract yourself from pain. Examples: movies, books, walking, journaling, writing, reading, time with family, friends, and pets.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.