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What is multiple sclerosis?

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological condition that affects 2.5 million people worldwide.1 In MS, the body’s own immune system attacks the nerves in the brain so they can’t send messages properly, causing the disabilities associated with the condition.2
Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 – 40, but it can develop at any age, and around three times more women are affected than men.1,3

Symptoms can include:4

You can find out more about the challenges people living with MS face over at the MS Ireland website.

Expect the unexpected

Symptoms vary from person to person and from day to day. As Claire testifies, it’s this unpredictability that means every day can pose a new challenge for those living with MS.

“MS affects you on a daily basis, because what you’re able to do one day, you might not be able to do the next day. It’s constantly changing.”

– Claire, Ireland.
Hear more from Claire about life with MS in her blog

And it’s this unpredictability that can sometimes put lives on hold. For Charlotte, this means having to cancel plans with friends and families at the last minute.

“One of the characteristics of the illness is that it’s unpredictable. So I sometimes have to text my friends an hour before meeting them saying: ‘Sorry, I’m not feeling well, I’m exhausted.’ That’s it. At first, I used to feel guilty, but not anymore, there’s nothing I can do.”

– Charlotte, France.
Hear more from Charlotte about life with MS in her blog

But you look great!

Many MS symptoms are invisible – pain, fatigue, loss of mental abilities – which leads to a whole new challenge in itself, something Paula knows all too well.

“My day-to-day life is more managing my fatigue. It’s an invisible one, so it’s quite difficult to explain to people without just seeming lazy, without them thinking you just didn’t go to bed early enough”

– Paula, United Kingdom.
Hear more from Paula about life with MS in her blog

Dealing with a lack of understanding from other people is a common challenge, as is managing their expectations around what you can and can’t do. Again, as Charlotte explains, this often means letting down family and friends.

“Pain and tiredness are indeed sources of lack of understanding. The thing was I looked healthy, so when I would cancel a dinner or a lunch or some family time in the afternoon, people and my family didn’t understand. They didn’t know whether I was actually in pain, or whether I was depressed.”

– Charlotte, France.
Hear more from Charlotte about life with MS in her blog

It’s the little things

For those living with MS, sometimes it’s the everyday that can cause the biggest challenges. For Jonathan, difficulty walking can have a massive impact on his day-to-day life.

“My right foot suffers from foot drop, so unless I wear an orthotic AFO (ankle foot orthosis) my toes drag on the floor… in the morning or evening when undressed I invariably catch my toes on the floor… painful!!!”

– Jonathan, United Kingdom.

Fiddly jobs become even more awkward and sometimes you must rely on the help of others, as Ana and Kaz have both discovered.

“It is impossible for me to put my earrings in. I can’t coordinate the movements and I don’t have strength enough in my fingers. I always ask someone else (a friend or work colleagues) to put my earrings in.”

– Ana, Spain.

“I can’t do my cuff links up, due to dexterity.”

– Kaz, United Kingdom.
Hear more from Kaz about life with MS

References: 1. Prevalence and incidence of multiple sclerosis. MS Trust. Available at: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/a-z/prevalence-and-incidence-multiple-sclerosis. Last accessed: August 2016. 2. Introduction to MS. MS Trust. Available at: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/understanding-ms/what-ms/introduction-ms. Last accessed: August 2016. 3. What is MS? MS Society. Available at: https://www.mssociety.org.uk/what-is-ms. Last accessed: August 2016. 4. Signs and symptoms. MS Society. Available at: https://www.mssociety.org.uk/what-is-ms/signs-and-symptoms. Last accessed: August 2016.

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