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9 Common Multiple Sclerosis Myths

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Don't be fooled by outdated misconceptions about multiple sclerosis. Here, we separate fact from fiction.

The science of multiple sclerosis (MS) changes so rapidly that people with the condition, their families, and even their doctors can be forgiven for holding on to some outdated myths and misconceptions about the disease. But with more knowledge of MS, people who live with it can have a higher quality of life. Here are some of the most common outdated MS myths.

1. People with multiple sclerosis can't or shouldn't be physically active.

At one time, experts believed that physical activity would worsen multiple sclerosis, so they advised against an active lifestyle. This MS myth lives on despite the facts, according to Mary Karpinski, a licensed master social worker and research coordinator at the UBMD Physicians Group in Williamsville, New York. Karpinski frequently encounters families who want to keep their children with multiple sclerosis out of activities to protect them, but she says that doctors recommend the opposite — for both children and adults.

"Research now shows it's better for you to get out there and get moving," she says. Choose activities that suit your interests and your physical abilities, and make sure you're active on most days of the week.

2. Multiple sclerosis doesn't cause pain.

Many people living with multiple sclerosis can tell you the truth about this MS myth: They do feel pain. Nonetheless, some healthcare providers might not consider pain a symptom of MS, says John Corboy, MD, a neurology professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

"Multiple sclerosis clearly does cause pain," he says. And a 2013 article in the Journal of Neurology confirmed that people with multiple sclerosis can experience long-term chronic pain, for which early intervention and treatment might provide relief.

3. I can't do anything to help my MS.

Dr. Corboy says there are many steps people with multiple sclerosis can take to improve their quality of life and possibly slow the progression of MS. "Lose weight, don't smoke, exercise, and get your vitamin D level to 70 ng/ml or more," he says. (Experts differ on the “ideal” blood level of vitamin D.)

Taking medications as prescribed will also make a difference. If you're feeling powerless over your multiple sclerosis, get started on this to-do list and talk to your medical team about other steps you can take.

4. I can't work with MS.

Some people with multiple sclerosis can and do hold jobs even decades after being diagnosed, according to research published in 2014 in the journal PLoS One. People with relapsing-remitting MS with lower disability levels are more likely to be employed than people with progressive types of MS with more pronounced disabilities.

Before you tender a letter of resignation, do some research. The Americans With Disabilities Act protects your right to stay employed and requires your employer to work with you on reasonable accommodations, such as flexible scheduling and workspace adjustments to enable you to do your job.

5. Multiple sclerosis is not associated with cognitive impairment.

Multiple sclerosis is typically thought of as a condition that affects mobility, but the fact is that it also affects your brain, said Corboy. Today, doctors and researchers know that people with multiple sclerosis can experience difficulty thinking, remembering, and processing information. You may benefit from specific interventions to help improve memory and thinking, so tell your doctor if you're experiencing these changes.

6. Multiple sclerosis treatment should start with less powerful drugs.

"The highest risk of developing irreversible problems is right after you are diagnosed," Corboy says. In spite of that, many people with MS — and their doctors — prefer to begin treatment with drugs that are less powerful and have fewer side effects. He attributes this to a cultural preference for waiting and seeing how things progress — an approach that could be harmful, at least for those with multiple sclerosis.

Instead, he says, it might be better to begin treatment with stronger medications, even though they can have more side effects. If you have doubts about whether you're on the most powerful medication suitable for your situation, be your own advocate and ask your doctor about your options.

7. Women with MS shouldn't get pregnant.

Multiple sclerosis strikes three times more women than men, and it’s usually diagnosed during the childbearing years. So whether or not to become pregnant is a pressing concern for many women with multiple sclerosis and their partners.

Experts emphasize that women with multiple sclerosis can get pregnant and might even find some relief from MS symptoms during their pregnancy, although relapse is possible within the first three months after delivery. A mother's MS has not been associated with any negative outcome for the baby. If you have MS and want to have a baby, talk with your doctor about all of the medications you're taking, including those for MS. Some MS medications should not be used during pregnancy.

8. Multiple sclerosis is contagious.

This myth may exist in part because "a relationship with the Epstein-Barr virus does exist, but there's never been any evidence that MS is contagious or in any way transmissible," Corboy says.

People with MS are much more likely than those without the condition to have signs of previous Epstein-Barr infections, but the exact nature of the connection with MS isn't clear. Corboy points out that researchers have failed to transmit multiple sclerosis in the lab to animals for research purposes, so it's unlikely to happen in your home or community.

9. I'm going to be permanently disabled.

Some people with MS do experience severe disability, but it's difficult to predict the rate of progression of the disease or the eventual degree of disability for any one person. This is especially true today, with the availability of more effective medications that have shown promise at slowing disease progression.

When MS does affect your physical functioning, there are a wide variety of mobility aids and other devices, as well as physical therapy know-how, to assist you in living your life. Many people with multiple sclerosis find there are times when using a walker or cane is essential, while on other days, such aids are unnecessary.

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

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