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Physical Wellness

How to Cope With a Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis

In America, around 200 people receive a multiple sclerosis diagnosis each week, typically affecting women more than men. The chronic nature of this condition requires constant management of its symptoms, as the neurological disease itself is incurable at this time. However, many people still live normal lives by managing their symptoms timely and effectively, so coping with this condition is definitely possible. 

What Is Multiple Sclerosis? Understanding Your Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis

Multiple sclerosis is a condition that impacts the central nervous system, including the brain and the spinal cord. Scientifically speaking, the condition causes the protective fatty tissue around nerves in some places to disintegrate, effectively disturbing the communication channel between the body and the central nervous system.

Occupational therapy instructor provides training exercises for patients at health center with multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
Common Symptoms Pointing To A Possible Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis Include Sensory Problems And Mobility Issues (Image Source: Shutterstock)

The most common symptoms pointing to a possible multiple sclerosis diagnosis include sensory problems, mobility issues, unclear vision, and clouded thinking. Other symptoms include fatigue, blindness or color blindness, bladder control issues, paralysis, numbness, balance issues, muscle spasms, heat sensitivity, and varying degrees of memory loss and attention deficits. 

According to experts, there are four forms of multiple sclerosis: relapsing-remitting MS, secondary-progressive MS, primary-progressive MS, and progressive-relapsing MS. Your doctor will diagnose your particular form of MS based upon the symptoms you’ve displayed, and then they will devise a suitable plan to help you manage and mitigate your symptoms. 

The most common type of MS is secondary-progressive MS. Under this form, patients initially display symptoms of the relapsing-remitting form but then have a consistently worsening condition with minor plateaus and remissions. 

The most common age bracket for a multiple sclerosis diagnosis is twenty to forty years old, and women are around three times more likely than men to be diagnosed with it. Also, the condition is more commonly found in people with Northern European ancestry, so its onset could be linked to genetic factors as well. 

However, there is no known cause for MS, although there is a general agreement that hereditary and environmental health factors play a role in its onset. According to studies, some correlation exists between a multiple sclerosis diagnosis and a vitamin D deficiency as well. 

Get Plenty of Rest and Follow a Multiple Sclerosis Diet Regimen

The onset of MS symptoms can impact both your physical and mental well-being. You are likely to experience some physical weakness due to disturbed sleeping patterns and inadequate diet, among other things. Furthermore, sleep problems can come as a side effect of MS medication. To manage your MS, it’s important that you get plenty of rest and follow a multiple sclerosis diet plan.

Young woman at home sitting on modern chair near window relaxing in living room.
To Manage Your MS, It’s Important That You Get Plenty Of Rest And Follow A Multiple Sclerosis Diet Plan (Image Source: Shutterstock)

You can expect a drastic change in your quality of life if you can improve the quality of your sleep, especially if you are living with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. One of the most commonly reported symptoms of MS is fatigue, and being well rested can help you cope with that.

One great way of getting the rest you need is by taking naps throughout the day as necessary. So, whenever you feel tired, take some time out for a quick nap and you are likely to come back feeling more energized. However, make sure the naps you take are short, as long naps can disturb the quality of your nighttime sleep. You might also try listening to some relaxing music or perhaps engage in some meditation to relax your mind and have a deeper sleep.

Your diet is just as important as your sleep, and you must eat mindfully. It’s very important to consume foods rich in nutrients and to keep your portion size small, as digesting large portions can be problematic for people with multiple sclerosis. This means that, instead of following the typical three-meals-a-day practice, you might find seven smaller meals in a day more energizing and fulfilling. 

Also, generally speaking, a diet rich in fibers and low in fats is considered optimal for people with multiple sclerosis. You should avoid processed foods, although naturally processed ones are fine. As there seems to be a correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and multiple sclerosis, perhaps maintaining optimal vitamin D levels might help you feel more active and alert, although more research is required to establish a connection.

Here is a quick seven-minute Youtube video with details about the diet and nutrition you should have if you are living with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis.

Living with multiple sclerosis can also be made easier with some helpful gadgets. Getting a motorized scooter could be a great idea for dealing with mobility issues, or installing hand controls in your vehicle can make it much easier to drive your car with only your hands. Modifying technology to suit your condition is a great way of coping with multiple sclerosis diagnosis. 

Consider Visiting a Mental Health Counselor

When it comes to coping with lifelong medical conditions like multiple sclerosis, your mental health is bound to take a hit. This is completely natural and common among patients with chronic illnesses. After receiving your diagnosis, perhaps it would be a good idea to visit your mental health counselor. If you don’t have one, consider reaching out to one near you and setting up an appointment. 

Man talking to a mental health counselor.
Your Mental Health Counselor Might Provide Some Resources That Can Help You Manage The MS Symptoms (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Some of the mental health symptoms you can expect after your multiple sclerosis diagnosis are anxiety, frustration, anger, and distress, with the high level of uncertainty potentially leading to depression. 

These symptoms can come about due to a variety of factors, such as brain nerve fibers damage, anxiety due to insufficient knowledge about the condition, and even as a side effect to some of the medication taken to manage MS symptoms. 

Managing these emotional changes is almost as crucial as dealing with the physical symptoms of the condition. Your mental health counselor might provide some resources that can help you manage the symptoms, including strategies to manage stress, moderate mood changes, and minimize the severity of anxiety and depression. A mindfulness app can also be a powerful tool to help you cope with stress. 

Your counselor can help you identify whether you are suffering from depression or grieving. Grief is a natural response to loss, and losing your sense of physical health after receiving a multiple sclerosis diagnosis is reasonable grounds for grief. Grieving is a process, sometimes taking as long as six to twelve months to complete. However, grieving for too long can lead to depression. 

Your counselor can guide your grieving process, help you develop stress management strategies, and prescribe necessary medication to treat any overwhelming emotional symptoms. This can help you emerge stronger and better equipped to cope with your multiple sclerosis diagnosis. 

Conclusion

Receiving a multiple sclerosis diagnosis is definitely tough, but you can cope with the condition by making a few lifestyle changes. Since it is an incurable condition, the best thing you can do is manage your symptoms. Some ways to cope include getting plenty of rest, decreasing your portion sizes while increasing the number of portions in a day, and visiting a mental health counselor to deal with the emotional impact of multiple sclerosis.

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