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Dealing with MS Symptoms

Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms can be tough on anyone. There are physical, emotional, and mental challenges to deal with. But you can take comfort by talking with your doctor, who may be able to prescribe medicines that will help reduce or relieve your symptoms. You can also watch this video that addresses the most common symptoms and provides options for managing them.

Vision problems

You might want to try:

  • Buying a home phone or cell phone with bigger numbers and voice activation features
  • Adding a magnifying light to your computer or desk
  • Using low-vision aids to make your computer screen easier to read
  • Labeling refrigerator and freezer shelves in large print to make it easier to find items
  • Having an organizer for your makeup and toiletries

Weakness

Exercise can improve many MS symptoms, including weakness, fatigue, bladder and bowel problems, as well as depression. People living with MS who are not physically active can be at a higher risk for heart disease, muscle weakness, fatigue, and broken bones. Getting enough exercise is crucial because it can improve strength and flexibility.

It's important to know that exercise does not cause relapses in multiple sclerosis. However, it's important to keep cool when exercising, as overheating may be an issue for some people with MS. Despite what you may have heard, no studies have shown that exercise leads to an increase in disease activity. Before you begin any exercise routine, talk with your healthcare professional.

Pain

You might want to try:

  • Starting a physical therapy program to learn strengthening exercises and ways to prevent overuse of muscles
  • Asking your doctor if a prescription or over-the-counter medicine could help ease your MS pain

Bowel and bladder problems

Things you can try for your bowels include:

  • Drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluid every day
  • Adding more fiber to your diet — especially if you have limited mobility, which can increase constipation
  • Staying as active as you can
  • Using fiber supplements or stool softeners as needed, and only as advised by your doctor

Things you can try for your bladder include:

  • Drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluid every day
  • Drinking cranberry juice
  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Using absorbent pads when necessary
  • Learning where bathrooms are at the mall, movie theater, or wherever you spend your free time

Balance and coordination problems

Physical activity can help, but talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program. You might want to try:

  • Aerobic exercise, like walking
  • Stretching exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Using an assistive device, such as a brace or cane

Fatigue

You might want to try:

  • Sleeping as much as possible at night and napping during the day
  • Doing tasks in the morning or when you usually have the most energy
  • Focusing on 1 task at a time to conserve energy
  • Asking your doctor about physical therapy to help you simplify daily tasks
  • Taking the weather into consideration when you make plans. That way, you can avoid the heat and stay cool.
  • Asking your doctor if there are any medicines that can help reduce your fatigue
  • Reducing stress

Cognitive impairment

You might want to try:

  • Creating a consistent daily routine to make remembering easier
  • Keeping a daily diary with appointments, reminders, and "to do" lists
  • Using electronic organizers for phone numbers and addresses
  • Keeping important papers and other items in 1 place to make it easier to find them
  • Taking a break if you feel lost or overwhelmed

Mood changes

It's normal for people living with MS to experience depression. But keeping a sense of humor can really help. A little laughter can go far. You might want to try:

  • Talking to your doctor about medication and counseling
  • Joining a self-help or support group to meet and gain strength from other people with MS
  • Watching a funny movie or TV show for diversion

Romantic problems

It's sometimes hard to talk about the sexual difficulties associated with MS. Sexual dysfunction is a symptom that can be helped with counseling and medication. But most important, try to communicate as honestly as you can with your partner.

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