Common Myths and Misconceptions about Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an immune mediated disease that causes your own immune system to attack the myelin sheaths of your axons in your nervous system. Axons propagate electrical signals throughout your body that allow you to move and function properly. They are covered in tissues known as myelin, which helps propagate the electrical signals quickly throughout your body. In patients with MS, their myelin sheaths in their central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) can become degraded. This degradation leads to a loss or slowing of certain functions due to the inability of electrical impulses to propagate freely down the axon. In severe cases, patients lose their ability to walk and move on their own. Fortunately, the science behind Multiple Sclerosis is changing rapidly each day. Researchers understand more and more about the disease and disease process and are able to help patients live fuller and more fruitful lives. Today, people with MS can live high quality, healthy lives and do not have to constantly worry about their disease. However, there are still quite a few misconceptions about Multiple Sclerosis in the world today. Here are the top five misconceptions that patients with MS hear all the time:

Multiple Sclerosis Patients Should Not Be Physically Active

Doctors of MS patients used to always tell them to never exercise or overexert themselves. It was believed that overexertion exacerbate the disease process, and actually worsen a patient’s symptoms. However, Multiple Sclerosis researches now show that patients who exercise and participate in physical activities regularly can see a reduction in their symptoms. Exercise can help patients cope with the disease both mentally and physically. Patients who do not exercise regularly may experience more muscle weakening and decreased bone density. Due to exercise’s ability to strengthen muscles and keep cardiovascular fitness in tip top shape, patients with Multiple Sclerosis who exercise regularly may have less periods of relapse and can recover from their relapses quicker than patients who do not exercise. If you have Multiple Sclerosis, it is important to choose physical activities that are easy on your body and that interest you. Walking, swimming, and biking are great low impact exercises that can improve many of the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis .

Multiple Sclerosis Does Not Cause Pain

If you ask patients who have Multiple Sclerosis if they experience pain, then most of them will answer affirmatively. Pain has not been thought of as a symptom of Multiple Sclerosis for so many years, that many doctors did not prescribe Multiple Sclerosis patients pain medication until recently. Pain is a common symptom of the disease that can become worse as the disease progresses. If you are feeling chronic pain in your muscles or bones, then it is essential you talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Early intervention can make the difference between living with long term chronic pain and waking up each morning pain free.

Women with Multiple Sclerosis Should Refrain from Getting Pregnant

Multiple Sclerosis affects three times more women than it does men. This means, that there are a lot of women who are dealing with the disease and wondering if they should get pregnant or not. It was a common myth that women with Multiple Sclerosis should not get pregnant because it could exacerbate their illness and they could pass on their disease to their children. However, women with Multiple Sclerosis are able to get pregnant, and often do not experience complications due to their disease. Women with Multiple Sclerosis who become pregnant actually often report finding relief from their everyday Multiple Sclerosis symptoms throughout their pregnancy. For many women, it is a welcomed relief to be symptom free for nine months. As far as genetics goes, researchers have yet to find out the exact gene that causes Multiple Sclerosis. They have narrowed the search down to a gene family that many Multiple Sclerosis patients have in common. However, they have determined that Multiple Sclerosis is not heritable, so women who desire to become pregnant should not worry about passing their disease onto their children.

Multiple Sclerosis Patients will Become Permanently Disabled

For patients who have just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, it can be a daunting diagnosis. Many may believe that they will become disabled during their lifetime. They dread being wheelchair bound, and already have images of their older years being spent in nursing homes with extra help. However, in today’s medical society, patients with Multiple Sclerosis have a great chance of never becoming permanently disabled. New medications and treatments have allowed patients to live fuller and healthier lives with their disease. Medications on the market today focus on slowing and even reversing the disease process. Today, there are also many key mobility aids and devices on the market and physical therapists are always there to help you with your day to day needs. With Multiple Sclerosis though, there could be days in which you may need a cane or a wheelchair, however within a few days, you could be walking normally and freely once again.

Multiple Sclerosis is Contagious

If you have a relative who has Multiple Sclerosis, then it may have crossed your mind at one point whether or not the disease was contagious. This is largely due to the fact that the Epstein Barr virus has been linked to Multiple Sclerosis, and EBV is highly contagious. However, although EBV and Multiple Sclerosis are linked, researchers have never found a link showing that Multiple Sclerosis is contagious. The connection between EBV and Multiple Sclerosis is still unclear as well. Patients with Multiple Sclerosis are highly likely to have come in contact with EBV some time in their lifetimes than people in the general population; however the links between the two diseases is not cut and dry yet. For now, Multiple Sclerosis is definitely not considered to be contagious. Researchers have not even been able to transfer Multiple Sclerosis to different lab animals in research labs; therefore it is highly unlikely that a person to person transfer could exist.

Multiple Sclerosis affects millions of people worldwide. Fortunately for patients, these common myths surrounding the disease are no longer being propagated. If you or someone you love is dealing with Multiple Sclerosis, then remember to forget all of these common misconceptions about the disease. Multiple Sclerosis patients can live healthy and full lives with adequate treatment and medications.

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