There is a still a lot to learn about multiple sclerosis. Here are some misconceptions you may have heard. We'd like to clear them up.
Myth #1 -"MS is fatal." It isn't. Statistics show that most people with MS have a near normal life span. Most deaths associated with MS are due to complications in advanced, progressive stages of the disease. Effective early treatment of MS should help to prevent those complications. In very rare cases, MS is malignantly progressive and may be fatal.
Myth #2 - "Everyone with MS will be in a wheelchair sooner or later." Not true. Many people with MS remain able to walk without help. However, the likelihood of needing a mobility device increases the longer someone has MS. In addition, people who are still able to walk may use a wheelchair, cane, scooter, or other device to conserve energy or prevent injury from falls. Only 25% of people with MS use a wheelchair or stay in bed because they are unable to walk, according to a well-designed survey completed before the new disease-modifying drugs became available.
Myth #3 -"Because there is no cure for MS, there's nothing that can be done for me." It is true that there is no cure for MS yet, but there are now FDA-approved medications that have been shown to modify or slow down the underlying course of MS. In addition, many therapeutic and technological advances are helping people manage symptoms and lead productive lives. Advances in treating and understanding MS are made every year and progress in research to find a cure is very encouraging.
Myth #4 -"I should stop working. The stress will aggravate my MS." There is no scientific evidence that the normal stress of working has any effect on MS. But symptoms, such as fatigue, can cause problems on the job. Approximately 30% of people with MS are working full-time after 20 years. The National MS Society thinks that number could be higher, and works to change the attitudes of employers and employees alike.
Myth #5 - "I shouldn't have children. I can't be good parent with MS."Children are far less fragile than you think, and are more able to accept painful realities than we generally assume. Parents often try to protect their children by hiding painful issues, but open and honest communication among family members is valuable and important.A family may include a person who doesn't always feel well, and needs extra help. The sharing you do together can make your family feel close. Just as the experience of MS itself varies from person to person, so too do the concerns of families.Even if a parent can't go skating or go on long hikes, there are many things families can do together. It's important to be supportive and let kids express their feelings. Most women with MS find their symptoms lessen during pregnancy. Then, the risk of an attack rises somewhat in the first six months after delivery. Overall, pregnancy and childbirth have no long-term effect on MS. Those who worry that their children will develop MS should know that the risk is actually very small: somewhere between 1% and 5%.
Myth #6 - "Natural treatments are "safer" than prescription medication." Controversy continues to rage about the value of alternative approaches. Advocates of alternative therapies sometimes claim that conventional medicine is ignoring or suppressing treatments that can alleviate symptoms or even cure some diseases. Opponents of alternative therapies maintain that conventional medicine adopts whatever therapies can be proven safe and effective, and they challenge the advocates of unproven treatments to produce the scientific evidence that will substantiate their claims. No dietary claim has yet held up in scientific studies. However, for general good health, people with MS are strongly advised to follow the low-fat, high-fiber, varied diet recommended by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.
Myth #7 - "No one will love me now that I have MS." Confronting the challenges of MS draws many couples closer together. Talking about problems and developing solutions can deepen both partners’ sense of intimacy. Sexuality does not have to disappear from the lives of couples when one partner has MS. Instead, partners can find satisfying approaches to sexual intimacy that overcome the barriers.
Myth #8 - "No one can possibly understand what I'm going through." Approximately 400,000 Americans acknowledge having MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. Worldwide, MS may affect 2.5 million individuals. • Read personal stories of trials and triumphs, view artwork, share experiences, and know that you are not alone. Through our network of chapters, the National MS Society offers support programs for everyone affected by MS, including referral to chapter-affiliated self-help groups.
Myth #9 - "Scientists aren't making much progress in the fight against MS." There has never been a more exciting time in MS research. Only a decade ago there were no medicines that could alter the underlying disease, and now there are five approved drugs for different forms of MS. The National MS Society is spending $30 million every year to fight MS, including funding more than 300 in-depth investigations into virtually every aspect of this disease.