Author Archives: Wendy Henderson

Jamie-Lynn Sigler Opens Up About Using Walking Sticks for MS

The Sopranos’ actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler only recently shared that she’s been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) for 15 years, choosing to remain quiet about her health out of fear that it would affect her career. Following her announcement, she won the support of multiple sclerosis sufferers all over the world and is now an advocate…

10 Things to Know About Multiple Sclerosis in Children

Although multiple sclerosis is more likely to be diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20 and 40, children can also develop the autoimmune disease. According to WebMD, between 8,000 and 10,000 children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with MS each year, and many more could be living with the condition but have yet to be diagnosed. Here are some more facts to know about multiple sclerosis in children. Often MS is diagnosed in children following the nerve disorder acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. Although MS often progresses slowly in children and teenagers, those who have an early onset of the disease may have physical disabilities earlier in life. Childhood MS often has more of an emotional effect on children, affecting school and social life as well as self-image. Symptoms of childhood MS are similar to adult MS, presenting problems with vision, balance, walking, bladder or bowel control, tingling or numbness, and tremors among others. Children with MS are also more prone to total lack of energy and seizures, which rarely affect adults with the condition. There is no cure for child-onset MS but there are treatments available to make life more comfortable and help relieve some of the symptoms of the disease. Corticosteroids can be used to reduce inflammation during flares, however, many may suffer from side effects. Plasma exchange and intravenous immunoglobulin can be used for children who cannot tolerate corticosteroids. Although there aren't any medications that have been approved by the FDA for MS patients under the age of 18 to use, children are usually prescribed the same medications as adults but with a reduced dosage. Treatment will often also include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.

8 Tips for Dealing With the Heat When You Have Multiple Sclerosis

Many people living with multiple sclerosis find that their symptoms become more pronounced when they are subjected to heat. With summer arriving in most parts of the country, many people with the condition will soon experience a temporary worsening of symptoms. (The same can happen if the person takes a bath or shower that's too hot.) According to verywell.com, the symptoms affected could include blurred vision, fatigue, tremors, numbness, cognitive abilities, and general weakness. Thankfully, the symptoms ease off when the weather cools down. According to the National MS Society, there are ways that those living with MS can help relieve heat sensitivity, including: Installing air conditioning (which may be tax deductible if recommended by your doctor) Staying indoors in extreme hot weather Wearing cooling products such as cooling vest, bandanas, and neck wraps Drinking icy drinks or eating popsicles Exercising in a cool swimming pool (under 85ºF) Exercising outdoors in the early morning or late evening Exercising indoors with fans or air conditioning Taking a cool bath or shower Some people may find that if heat becomes too much of a problem that moving to an area with a more suited climate is the only way to find relief.

4 Things to Know About Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis

Vitamin D is often talked about as an important vitamin that helps the body stay fit and strong, but it could also help in the fight against multiple sclerosis. While there still needs to be more research conducted into the beneficial effects of vitamin D, there are some things to know about its relationship with MS. It may slow the progression of multiple sclerosis: There is some evidence that suggests people with multiple sclerosis who have higher levels of vitamin D in their bodies are likely to suffer less severe symptoms. According to Web MD, a study noted the symptoms of a group of people with MS and then found that five years later, those which higher levels of vitamin D experienced fewer problems. While this shows promise, more research needs to be conducted into whether vitamin D can actually slow down the progression of MS. Other studies have found that vitamin D may be helpful in the prevention of the disease. Researchers discovered that children who spent a lot of time outside in the sunshine were less likely to develop the disease later in life. This is also backed up by the fact that the further away from the equator you live, the higher your risk of developing MS becomes, as the amount of sunshine diminishes. To date, no one is really sure what role vitamin D plays in protecting people against MS. Many think that vitamin D enhances the immune system, making it less likely for a person to develop an autoimmune disease like MS. How much vitamin D do you need to take? A simple blood test can determine your levels of vitamin D. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society suggests that people living with the disease get between 200 and 600 IUs (international units) a day. How can you improve your vitamin D intake? You can either take a supplement (if recommended by your healthcare team), spend 15 minutes each day in the sun, or eat more food containing vitamin D such as oily fish, beef liver, cheese, eggs and foods fortified with vitamin D such as cereals, milk and orange juice.

9 Ways to Manage Brain Fog

One of the most frustrating symptoms of living with a chronic illness is brain fog. There are medications to treat many symptoms of chronic diseases, but sadly there isn't yet a pill that takes away brain fog. However, there are ways to deal with it so patients can minimize its effects and lead a normal life. We've put together a list of 10 ways to help manage brain fog, with help from princessinthetower.org, newlifeoutlook.com, and WebMD. Write Things Down: Everyone forgets things now and then, but having brain fog often means forgetting important dates and occasions. Keep a to-do list and a calendar in a highly visible location, or use an online diary to keep track of what each day holds. There are many mobile apps that can also help with organization. Exercise the Body: Exercise offers a chance to turn off from all the usual things that occupy the mind. It can also improve sleep, which can in turn improve cognitive skills. Exercise the Mind: Take the time to do thought-challenging exercises like crossword, sudoku, and jigsaw puzzles, or learn a new language. In addition, maintaining a hobby will keep the mind focused on something positive. Pick the Right Time of Day: Whether a morning lark or night owl, we all have certain times when we feel more alert. Choose a time each day when your concentration is at its highest to tackle difficult and complex tasks. Eat a Brain-Healthy Diet: Eat lots of good fats known for brain health such as nuts, avocados, coconut oil, and omega-3-rich foods. Get Plenty of Rest: Quality sleep and restorative naps (when appropriate) can dramatically improve cognitive health. Try to keep to a routine bedtime and waking time, even on the weekend, to promote a good sleep pattern. Go Easy on Yourself: Don't overdo it. Ask for help when needed and try to rest as much as possible to conserve energy. Participate in calming activities like taking a stroll through a peaceful spot, reading a book, or listening to music. Organize Your Home and Workspace: Reorganize your living and working space so that everything you need regularly is easily accessible. This can help conserve energy and provide peace of mind. Plan Ahead: If brain fog is worse first thing in the morning, laying out clothes the night before will be one less thing to have to stress over in the morning. Sort meds into a daily medication box so you know when you're up to date and can easily make sure you haven't forgotten to take them (or don't take them more than once).

How Doctors Treat Spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis

Spasticity is where the muscles become stiffened and often spasm due to nerve damage — it's a common symptom associated with multiple sclerosis. Generally, the spasticity occurs in the arms and legs and may impact the way a person can move their limbs. According to WebMD, for some people living with MS, the spasticity may come and go — particularly during the night — while others may experience spasticity all the time. Weather can often affect the severity of spasticity, with many experiencing worsening symptoms during either hot or cold weather. Other things that can influence spasticity are infections and even wearing tight clothing. There are ways to treat spasticity, but the method will depend on how severe the spasticity is and the effect it has on the person's daily life. The first port of call is usually physical therapy, which will use exercises designed to stretch and elongate the muscles to help reduce stiffness. Occupational therapy involves the use of items that may help improve mobility, including casts, braces, walking sticks, or splints. If occupational or physical therapy has no effect on the spasticity, doctors may prescribe medications to relax the muscles or aid sleep if spasticity is worse at night. In severe cases, surgery may be required to cut away affected spinal nerves or tenotomy, which cuts tight tendons away from muscles to relieve tension.

What You Need to Know About Natalizumab (Tysabri)

Natalizumab, also known by its brand name Tysabri, is a drug used in the treatment of relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). We've put together a list of things to know about the treatment using information from tysabri.com and the National MS Society. Natalizumab is administered intravenously, usually every 28 days. Patients are monitored for an hour after infusion for any adverse effects. It has been proven to slow the progression of many common MS symptoms. The drug can decrease the number of MS flares a person suffers. Reduction of relapse rate in Tysabri's clinical trial was more than 60 percent. Natalizumab works by prohibiting the binding of white blood cells to molecules in the spinal cord and brain, limiting the normal immune response. Tysabri was approved by the FDA in 2004 after just a year of data from a two-year clinical trial. People who take natalizumab are at a higher risk of developing the rare brain infection known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), and the risk increases the longer you take the drug or if the patient has had the JCV virus. Those with other immune-compromising diseases are advised not to take natalizumab. Patients will undergo a risk assessment before beginning Tysabri treatment. Regular liver tests are conducted to determine white blood cell counts and check for liver damage. Common side effects include headaches, rashes, fatigue, pains in arms and legs, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, lung infection, nose and throat infections, depression, and vaginitis. Natalizumab is not advised for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

9 Ways Multiple Sclerosis Affects Your Body From Head to Toe

Multiple sclerosis has many different symptoms, as it can affect any part of your body. No two people living with MS experience the same symptoms, but here are some of the ways that the condition can affect you from head to toe, according to healthline.com. Brain: Cognitive issues such as brain fog, memory and concentration problems are common for people living with MS, and many experience vertigo or dizziness. In rare cases, patients may also suffer from tremors or seizures. Eyes: Vision problems are often one of the first signs of MS. Double vision, blurred vision and eye pain can come on suddenly, but in most cases, they are temporary and are due to inflammation of the muscles around the eye and can be rectified with medication. Ears: In rare cases of MS, damage to the brainstem may result in hearing problems or deafness. Again, the majority of cases are temporary but some may suffer permanent damage to hearing. Mouth and throat: Around 40 percent of people living with MS may experience problems with speech, usually slurred speech or trouble articulating. Some may also have trouble controlling the volume of their speech. Rarer still, some people may experience problems with swallowing which can be serious as it can lead to choking. Speech and language therapists can help with both speech and swallowing problems. Arms and legs: The limbs are most likely to be affected by multiple sclerosis, with patients suffering from a variety of ailments such as pain, numbness, and tingling. Both fine and gross motor skills are involved as hand-to-eye coordination may be affected and many will suffer from balance problems or have difficulty walking as the disease progresses. Bladder and bowel: Nerve damage can lead to problems controlling the bladder and bowel. Bladder problems are extremely common in MS, affecting around 80 percent of patients. Bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea and lack of bowel control can sometimes be maintained through diet and exercise but in some cases, medication or surgery may be required. Reproductive system: There is no evidence that suggests MS affects fertility in men or women. And for women, many find that their MS goes into remission during pregnancy. However, between 20 percent and 40 percent will relapse after they have given birth. Sexual dysfunction is common in MS. This could be due to a variety of reasons both physical and emotional. Nerve damage, fatigue, general pain and the effects of depression can all have an effect on a person's libido. However, these can often be overcome with some medication or a little bit of planning. Skeletal Structure: The regular use of steroids and lack of exercise puts multiple sclerosis patients at a higher risk of osteoporosis. Exercise is important to help keep bones strong and healthy and to avoid excess bone density loss. People with multiple sclerosis are also more likely to be deficient in vitamin D, which plays a vital role in bone health. Heart: Researchers have discovered that women with MS are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular problems than those without the condition. Regular exercise and a good diet are essential to help avoid problems such as stroke, heart disease or heart failure.

Using Low-Dose Naltrexone as a Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Using Low-Dose Naltrexone as a Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis Naltrexone is traditionally used for the treatment of addiction to alcohol or opioids because of its ability to block the action of the opioid or alcohol, making them less appealing to those who are addicted. Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) has also been used as a treatment for a variety of conditions including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to help with pain relief — but could it be useful in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS)? According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a clinical trial in 2010 of 60 MS patients taking low-dose naltrexone found that it could improve quality of life for those suffering from various types of multiple sclerosis. The trial reported that areas such as pain management, mental health and cognitive function improved while patients were taking the drug. Another smaller trial in 2008 of 40 patients with primary-progressive MS who took LDN for six months found that it helped significantly in managing fatigue and depression, although there were side effects such as sleep disturbances, urinary tract infections and increases in liver enzymes. However, also in 2010, a 96-patient trial found no significant difference in quality of life between the group taking LDN and the placebo group, with the researchers concluding that research needed to be conducted over a longer period of time to properly assess the efficacy of low-dose naltrexone.

6 of the Best Apps for Chronic Illness Management

Managing a chronic illness can be difficult. There are many different medications to take (often at different times), appointments to remember, symptoms to keep track of, and lots of information to absorb. Thankfully, living in a digital age means that there are numerous mobile apps that can help you manage…

Neuroprotection: A Possible Future Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Research into new treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) is ongoing and scientists are continuously discovering new ways to tackle the disease. There is one area of research that’s showing promising results: neuroprotection. MORE: Air pollution may trigger relapses in multiple sclerosis. Neuroprotection could offer a new approach to treating multiple sclerosis. It aims…

MSAA Launches ‘Swim for MS’ Campaign

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) has launched its “Swim for MS” campaign to help raise awareness of the disease and money for vital research. MORE: How to manage multiple sclerosis relapses The idea is to create your own swimming challenge to raise money…

18 Common Home Modifications to Improve Life With MS

As your MS progresses, you may find it necessary to make some modifications to your home to make it safer and more accessible. Such alterations can vastly improve the quality of life for people living with the disease, allowing them to regain some independence and making life more comfortable. Here are some common…

Dancing Doodle

Did you know some of the news and columns on Multiple Sclerosis News Today are recorded and available for listening on SoundCloud? These flash briefings give our readers an alternative option for accessing information important for them.

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