Like everyone affected by multiple sclerosis, you no doubt have questions that need answers. The following list of questions and answers is provided to help you better understand MS and related issues. We make every effort to ensure that the information stated within this section is correct and accurate. However, site users should realize that not all content will apply to everyone. Always call or see your physician or other health care provider to answer your health care-related questions. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.
MS is the most common central nervous system (CNS) disease among young adults in Canada. MS affects an estimated 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians, with disease onset usually between the ages of 15 and 40 years. MS affects 3 times as many women as men.
The cause of MS is unknown. It is believed that the person's immune system attacks the myelin sheath (the coating around the nerve fibres in the CNS). Myelin insulates the nerve to allow for efficient transmission of nerve impulses. If there is slight damage to the myelin, nerve impulses travel with minor interruptions; however, if myelin is heavily damaged and scarred, nerve impulses may be completely disrupted.
MS varies greatly in severity and course from person to person.
The course the disease takes in any one person allows us to make a rough distinction between different types of MS:
The progress the disease makes is variable, depending on the severity and location of inflammation and how quickly the myelin breaks down and axons are lost. Dividing MS into groups according to the progress of the disease is often a question of looking back over a longer period. However, because MS is such a variable disease, it is nearly impossible to predict how MS will affect a person in the future. Therefore, if you are diagnosed with a particular form of the disease, there is no way to predict when, or if, you will progress to another form.
The good news is that there are treatments available to help you control your MS and help you preserve your ability. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options. Use the Doctor Discussion Guide to help you get ready for your doctor's visit. Read more information about current MS therapies and treatment options.
There is currently no cure for MS, but it can be treated. With the right treatment, you can control your MS and preserve your ability. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.
In general, yes, you can. Although there are many details to consider between you, your partner, and your doctor, many women with MS have successfully borne and raised children and have been happy with their decision. However, some medications cannot safely be used by pregnant women. Depending on the progression of the disease, you may have certain physical limitations on childbearing as well. Discuss pregnancy with your doctor as soon as you begin thinking about having a child. Read "MS and Pregnancy" for more information.
In general, physical exercise is good for you. Although exercise cannot prevent or reverse the processes that cause MS, it can improve your ability to function because exercise strengthens muscles and helps build up endurance. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen. Read "MS and Exercise" for more information.
Legally, you do not need to tell your employer you have MS unless you need to request time off or workplace accommodations (workplace changes to help you do your job, such as new equipment) because of your condition. If you don't need to make these types of requests, then it's up to you to decide if and when you tell your employer about your MS.
Many people consider factors such as discrimination, job security, and the stress of keeping the condition secret in their decision. While most employers are quite helpful when someone discloses their MS, get legal advice if they refuse to offer workplace accommodations, threaten to fire you, or cut off your health benefits. Read "MS and Employment" for more information.
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