Those who are looking for something to watch on their Netflix account might stumble across a show called The West Wing and immediately watch a season or two. While the show was an amazing look into the politics of what goes on in the White House, one of the understated firsts of the show was its sincere handling of multiple sclerosis. Josiah Bartlet, as played by Martin Sheen, had multiple sclerosis throughout his presidency, and the show never hesitated to show the effects the disease had on his ability to govern.
In the time since then, a number of celebrities have come out with their diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and the effect it has had on their personal lives. In regard to politics, Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, was forthright with her disease and was able to show people that it is possible to live with multiple sclerosis and lead a great life. Jack Osborne recently went on the Doctor Oz Show and showed how he is dealing with the disease and the steps he took to beat it the best way that he can. Let’s also not forget Montel Williams, who has lived with the disease for years and has been able to start up a foundation to inform others about the disease.
In regard to all of these cases, these people have been able to see past the sentence of the illness and continue on with their lives. With that in mind, it’s all about awareness. Here are some things to know about multiple sclerosis, including symptoms; equipment needed; and possible ways to improve the quality of life:
- What are the symptoms? The Mayo Clinic defines multiple sclerosis as a disease where the immune system eats away at the mylelin that covers the nerves. The myelin controls how your brain communicates with your nerves, and when damaged, could be potentially debilitating. Symptoms vary greatly, depending on the damage, and could include numbness of the limbs, double vision or partial blindness, tingling, tremors, fatigue and dizziness. By being aware of these symptoms, you can seek treatment immediately, so you can manage the disease as best as possible.
- What are some possible treatments? While there is no known cure for the disease, there are ways to prevent the symptoms from getting worse. Besides corticosteroids and prescription drugs, physical therapy, an active lifestyle and a good diet can go a long way in helping the patient lead a normal life.
- What do caregivers use when the disease has advanced? In its most advanced stages, a catheter might be used as the patient might have limited mobility. When it gets to this point, it’s important for the caregiver and patient to have a basic understanding of the different types of catheters and the basics on how to use them. There are a wide variety of sizes, and sterility must be of utmost importance to prevent infection.
By knowing what the disease consists of and ways to manage the symptoms, multiple sclerosis can be tempered until we find a cure. Awareness, the right equipment and good lifestyle practices are a good first step in fighting it.
Tim McDonald is a RN who loves reading and writing about different medical topics.