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Maha brings hope to patients with multiple sclerosis

Maha Abbas

In today's society, Google may be the information tool of choice for many, but for 28-year-old marketing executive, Maha Abbas, a quick search of the words 'multiple sclerosis (MS)' left her feeling scared and empty.

After being diagnosed with MS at the age of 23, Abbas knew little about the disease so turned to Google for a snapshot of what exactly it was.

"That was the worst thing I could have done. It basically said I was going to die. MS was painted as this horrible, progressive disease. It was a major shock to me."

But now five years on, living comfortably with the MS, Abbas is on a mission to raise awareness of the little-discussed disease. She wants other sufferers to know that with a few lifestyle changes, life can, and will, go on. In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers. As a result, this causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body.

Although medication does help in managing the condition, Abbas is a huge advocate of lifestyle changes.

"I finally took control of my condition about 10 months after my initial diagnosis. MS has forced me to live a healthy lifestyle and I want to educate other people about it."

However, with limited information about MS on hand in the UAE, the last five years have been a huge learning curve for Bahrain-born Abbas. One of the biggest symptoms of her condition is fatigue, and as a young woman in her 20s, that can often be frustrating, she said.

"When I was diagnosed at 23, I wanted to be carefree but that freedom was kind of stripped away because I was always tired."

But now she has learnt to control the disease, Abbas wants it to become an open discussion in the UAE. She said she wants to give patients with MS a place to go, somewhere where they "are not alone".

After suffering her first attack at 17, shortly after finishing her high school exams, Abbas lost the vision in her right eye.Not knowing what was wrong with her, many people, including healthcare professionals, brushed it off, blaming "exam stress" for the sudden loss of vision.

"That was a frustrating time. It wasn't until five years later that I was actually diagnosed. If there was more awareness about MS, maybe I would have been diagnosed earlier."

After noticing a lack of support after her diagnosis, Abbas launched MS Talks - an initiative to spread knowledge, provide education and support MS patients, their carers and families in the UAE.

The first event took place on Saturday in Dubai in partnership with neurologists from the German Neuroscience Centre (GNC) in Dubai.

"I want to address this issue so we can open up a better dialogue and help people learn more about what their body needs in order to cope with MS."

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by KHALEEJTIMES
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length


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