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Multiple Sclerosis: Questions About What to Expect

Topic Overview

Finding out that you have multiple sclerosis (MS) can be frightening. Even if you know a lot about MS, it is hard to predict how the disease will affect you. Some questions you might ask include the following:

  • Will I have to use a wheelchair? MS affects how nerves in your brain and spinal cord communicate with each other. If your MS attacks the nerves that control your muscles (especially in your hips, legs, or feet), you may have to use a wheelchair during a relapse. More advanced symptoms can include stiff, mechanical movements or uncontrollable shaking which may make walking difficult. A wheelchair may be needed some or all of the time.
  • How will my MS develop? Some people will have wide fluctuations in symptoms and a modest degree of disability; a small number will have a mild disability that gradually disappears; some will become incapacitated. A few people report that they have such subtle symptoms, they are hardly bothered by the disease.
  • Can I have children? MS usually does not affect your ability to have children, although it can cause some problems with sexual function. New mothers are at increased risk for relapses 3 to 6 months after delivery, which can pose problems in caring for the newborn. Pregnancy does not affect the long-term outcome of the disease.
  • Will I lose my mind and be unable to think? Cognitive impairment (changes in thinking ability) may appear after many years, although you may sense subtle changes early on. Depression may accompany MS but can usually be treated with medicines and counseling. It is impossible to predict whether mental changes will occur.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Barrie J. Hurwitz, MD - Neurology
Last Revised February 15, 2012

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