Imagine waking up one morning unable to see, or having your arm feel especially weak. Those symptoms went away, but were replaced with another odd sensation weeks or months later. If you had gone to see your doctor, you might have been told you have “probable Multiple Sclerosis,” because MS is difficult to diagnose. There is no one single test to determine it, so physicians must assess neurologic symptoms that are experienced over a period of time.
March is a designated time to increase our understanding of this sometimes-baffling disease. Here are a few key facts:
- MS affects the insulating covers of cells in the brain and spinal cord, which disrupts communication in the nervous system, and can cause an array of symptoms, including muscle weakness, blindness in one eye, lack of sensation and trouble with coordination.
- MS is thought to affect 2.3 million people worldwide. The exact number of people affected is unknown, largely because physicians are not required to report diagnosed cases to any central database.
- MS is 2-3 times more likely to strike women than men, and it is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 50.
- MS is not contagious, or inherited, although having a first-degree relative with MS increases the risk.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society stresses that managing MS is an ongoing process. “It’s never too soon or too late to think about how to access high quality care. Knowing what to look for, where to find it, and how to work effectively with your doctor and other health professionals is essential to your health and quality of life.”
An important aspect of high quality care may include intensive inpatient rehabilitation for exacerbations of Multiple Sclerosis. Burke’s Neurological Rehabilitation program helps MS patients recover from impairments and lessen restrictions to participating in life activities. It’s an interdisciplinary effort combining a team of medical, nursing and rehab specialists.
In addition to the intensive rehab program, Burke offers outpatient rehabilitation to help patients increase their mobility and build endurance.
Beyond treating patients in its rehabilitation programs, Burke hosts a monthly MS support group for members of the community, as well as former patients. This free group meets at Burke’s White Plains campus and is led by a certified health coach. It focuses on topics such as nutrition and healthy living options for anyone living with MS.
The group also provides a forum in which participants can openly share their personal experiences and coping strategies with others who may be experiencing similar life situations. Benefits of joining a support group include feeling less isolated and more empowered, improving coping skills and reducing stress and anxiety.
Dates, times and information for all of Burke’s support groups can be found on our community calendar at burke.org/community/community-calendar.