Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Guest Blog: The Facts and Fictions of Multiple Sclerosis

When I used to think about Multiple Sclerosis I invariably thought about a person in a wheelchair – usually that person would be Caucasian and a woman. I had little knowledge about what MS is, what parts of the body it affects, who gets it or why they get it. Being with Jason as his disease progresses and helping out with the film have been real eye-openers for me and I have learned so much. So I thought I’d share some insights into MS – and separate myth from reality.

FACT: MS is the most common disabling neurological disease that affects young people.

Multiple Sclerosis is a common disease – the United States has more than 400 000 cases of Multiple Sclerosis alone. In MS, your immune system attacks your nervous system which leads to a destruction of myelin. Myelin forms a sheath which protects your neurons – so when the myelin sheath is destroyed, your nerves are affected and cannot function properly. Common symptoms of all forms of MS include: gait and walking problems, spasticity, loss of vision, tremors, balance problems, a decrease in cognitive functioning, bladder and/or bowel problems, fatigue, weakness and depression.

However, it is important to note that no two people are alike and symptoms experienced vary widely from person to person and depend upon a variety of factors – what type of MS you have (whether it is relapsing-remitting or progressive) as well as the location of lesions.

FICTION: Having MS means you won’t be able to walk and will end up in a wheelchair.

It’s not necessary that if you have MS you will end up in a wheelchair. Depending on the trajectory of the MS, you may be able to get along just fine without a wheelchair. A person with MS may need to rely on canes, walkers or wheelchairs depending on how their disease progresses. The point is, there are many devices (good ones!) that are available to help you out so you can carry on with your day-to-day living with minimal disruptions.

FACT: There are 4 types of MS.

There are four types of MS. Relapsing-remitting MS, which affects 85-90% of those with MS, is characterized with periods of acute attacks in which symptoms flare followed by periods of remission. Those with Secondary-progressive MS start off by having Relapsing-Remitting MS but then face a neurologic decline without definite remission periods. Primary-progressive MS (the type that Jason has) affects about 10% of individuals who undergo a steady decline of without any relapses. Finally, Progressive-relapsing MS describes those who have relapsing episodes along with a progressive neurological decline – this is the most rarest type.

FICTION: MS is a life-threatening disease.

This is totally false! Research shows that people living with MS have a near-normal lifespan when compared to the general population. The medical community has made a lot of advancements into MS over the years. There are now many drugs that are proven to manage MS symptoms and help slow disease progression. Complimentary and alternative therapies, such as massage therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, acupuncture – as well as regular exercise and strength training- can help individuals with MS live a healthy and full life.

To view Jason’s trailer for his upcoming film about MS, visit:

For more info about MS you can visit the following websites:

Posted by Kamal Arora