What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic condition that impacts the central nervous system (the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord). MS occurs when the immune system damages the myelin sheathing- known as the fatty substance which surrounds and insulates healthy nerve fibers- in the central nervous system. When the myelin is damaged it means your nerves will not be able to send or receive messages as they should.
Because of this, your muscles, coordination and basic mobility can be compromised and in the worst cause, MS can paralyze you. MS affects approximately 1 million Americans, and typically presents itself between the ages of 20-40. MS is unpredictable, does not discriminate and will impact each person differently. As stated by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there are four types of MS:
- Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)
- Relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Secondary progressive MS (SPMS)
- Primary progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
The cause of MS is unknown. There is ongoing research to determine what causes MS; some scientists believe the cause is triggered by a variety of factors such as immunology, epidemiology, genetics and infectious agents.
“Living with MS has its challenges but with my medical ID and membership, my loved ones and I are so grateful for that peace of mind we have with my MedicAlert.”
– Shana Kinser, MedicAlert member
Do I need a medical alert bracelet for MS?
Yes, living with MS can present challenges such as limited dexterity and mobility, loss of sight and speech. During an emergency you might not be able to communicate what’s happening, what medications you’re taking or any other vital medical information that is needed for first responders to treat you accurately. That’s why a multiple sclerosis medical ID bracelet is essential. A MedicAlert ID speaks for you when you can’t, it alerts others to your condition so you get the care you need at the moment you need it. Wearing a MedicAlert ID will provide you with everyday peace of mind.
The Importance of a Multiple Sclerosis Medical ID Bracelet
Wearing a medical ID at all times ensures your medical conditions are immediately known in an emergency.
When first responders see your MedicAlert ID, they know to contact MedicAlert to get your complete health record.
Get protected 24/7 with a MedicAlert ID and membership.
How does MedicAlert work for people with multiple sclerosis?
MedicAlert medical ID bracelets provide individuals with MS and their loved ones with peace of mind. In an emergency, MedicAlert’s 24/7 emergency response team will relay your complete medical history to first responders, and they’ll connect them with your emergency contacts
With a MedicAlert membership, you’ll have the confidence that the information in your digital health profile can be easily accessed and available to care providers in the event of an emergency.
- We’re your voice: If you can’t speak for yourself, your ID informs others about your MS, the medications you are taking and any other medical information that’s vital for a first responder, doctor, nurse or emergency professional to know. This helps first responders treat you quickly and appropriately.
- 24/7 emergency protection: Anytime, anywhere – our team will communicate your critical medical information to first responders in an emergency.
- Stay connected: Nobody anticipates an emergency, and no one should be alone in their moment of need. That’s why with a MedicaAlert membership our team will reach out to your emergency contacts when needed if you are unable to do so.
- Confidence to live your life: With MedicAlert by your side, you’ll have the confidence to enjoy the things you like to do, knowing we’ll be there for you when you need us most.
What are some symptoms of MS?
MS symptoms vary from person to person, they’re often unpredictable and some symptoms can even change over time. Most people won’t experience the same symptoms.
According to the MS Society, there is a long list of symptoms, and they vary widely from person to person. Possible symptoms for MS include these:
- MS Hug (Dysesthesia): Often a first symptom of MS or a relapse, an MS hug is a squeezing sensation around the torso that feels like a blood pressure cuff when it tightens.
- Weakness: Weakness in MS, which results from deconditioning of unused muscles or damage to nerves that stimulate muscles, can be managed with rehabilitation strategies and the use of mobility aids and other assistive devices.
- Fatigue: Occurs in about 80% of people, can significantly interfere with the ability to function at home and work, and may be the most prominent symptom in a person who otherwise has minimal activity limitations.
- Walking (Gait) Difficulties: Related to several factors including weakness, spasticity, loss of balance, sensory deficit and fatigue, and can be helped by physical therapy, assistive therapy and medications.
- Numbness or Tingling: Numbness of the face, body, or extremities (arms and legs) is often the first symptom experienced by those eventually diagnosed as having MS.
- Spasticity: Refers to feelings of stiffness and a wide range of involuntary muscle spasms; can occur in any limb, but it is much more common in the legs.
- Vision Problems: The first symptom of MS for many people. Optic neuritis, neuromyelitis optica, blurred vision, poor contrast or color vision, and pain on eye movement can be frightening — and should be evaluated promptly.
- Vertigo and Dizziness: People with MS may feel off balance or lightheaded, or — much less often — have the sensation that they or their surroundings are spinning (vertigo).
- Bladder Problems: Bladder dysfunction, which occurs in at least 80% of people with MS, can usually be managed quite successfully with medications, fluid management, and intermittent self-catheterization.
- Bowel Problems: Constipation is a particular concern among people with MS, as is loss of control of the bowels. Bowel issues can typically be managed through diet, adequate fluid intake, physical activity and medication.
- Pain & Itching: Pain syndromes are common in MS. In one study, 55% of people with MS had “clinically significant pain” at some time, and almost half had chronic pain.
- Cognitive Changes: Refers to a range of high-level brain functions affected in more than 50% of people with MS, including the ability to process incoming information, learn and remember new information, organize and problem-solve, focus attention and accurately perceive the environment.
- Emotional Changes: Can be a reaction to the stresses of living with MS as well as the result of neurologic and immune changes. Anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and episodes of uncontrollable laughing and crying pose significant challenges for people with MS and their families.
- Depression: Studies have suggested that clinical depression — the severest form of depression — is among the most common symptoms of MS. It is more common among people with MS than it is in the general population or in persons with many other chronic, disabling conditions. Depression can be both a primary symptom and/or triggered by the challenges of the disease itself.
Less common symptoms:
- Loss of Taste: One quarter of people diagnosed with MS experience diminished taste.
- Speech Problems: Speech problems, including slurring (dysarthria) and loss of volume (dysphonia) occur in approximately 25-40% of people with MS, particularly later in the disease course and during periods of extreme fatigue. Stuttering is occasionally reported as well.
- Swallowing Problems: Swallowing problems — referred to as dysphagia — result from damage to the nerves controlling the many small muscles in the mouth and throat.
- Tremor: Tremor, or uncontrollable shaking, can occur in various parts of the body because of damaged areas along the complex nerve pathways that are responsible for coordination of movements.
- Seizures: Seizures — which are the result of abnormal electrical discharges in an injured or scarred area of the brain — have been estimated to occur in 2-5% people with MS, compared to the estimated 3% of the general population.
- Breathing Problems: Respiration problems occur in people whose chest muscles have been severely weakened by damage to the nerves that control those muscles.
- Hearing Loss: About 6% of people who have MS complain of impaired hearing. In very rare cases, hearing loss has been reported as the first symptom of the disease.
How is MS diagnosed?
There is no one laboratory test or symptom that will diagnose MS. To determine if you have MS several tests are used to essentially rule out other possible causes based on a criteria that has been long-established. The tests and strategies take into consideration the symptoms you may be experiencing, and based on the symptoms specific tests will be conducted. Tests include MRIs, spinal fluid analysis, neurological exams, and blood tests. Specialists will also conduct a careful review of your medical history, and genetics.
What should I engrave on my medical ID?
MedicAlert offers free custom engraving on all our medical IDs. The engraving on your MS medical ID should include any critical medical information that can protect and save your life if you are in an accident or have a medical emergency, including:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Medications you’re taking
- Other medical conditions
- Any additional medical information that needs to be communicated to first responders
The National MS Society vision is a world free of MS and their mission is: We will cure MS while empowering people affected by MS to live their best lives. Learn about their resources here:
Feel confident and enjoy peace of mind with MedicAlert