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December 19 2017
 

Treating multiple sclerosis requires vigilance, a dedicated health care team and options

By Stanya Smith, MD

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the body’s nervous system. Anyone can acquire MS.

MS causes white blood cells, called lymphocytes, to attack the myelin sheath that insulates nerve fibers. It can affect nearly every part of the body, altering strength and endurance, vision, mobility and even the ability to think clearly and manage emotions. It can also be painful and in some cases cause tremors or seizures.

Symptoms of MS vary widely, occur at different levels of severity and can change over time. Patients may experience numbness, tingling, weakness, imbalance, bowel and bladder dysfunction and cognitive issues. Symptoms can be continuous or intermittent.

Because MS varies so much, it’s important for people with the disease to receive care that is tailored to their specific needs. The best outcomes can be achieved when the patient, family and health care professionals work together to develop a flexible, multi-layered treatment plan.

Comprehensive care covers all aspects of MS

Comprehensive care for MS patients requires a variety of medical specialists working together to manage a patient’s care over the long term. Along with medical care, patients need support and education, help managing medications and connections to community resources.

Specialists in nursing, infusion therapy, neurology, neuropsychology, ophthalmology, psychology, radiology, social work, urogynecology, urology and physical, occupational and speech therapy may be consulted to provide MS treatment options. Treatment can include medication, strength and balance training, fine motor movement therapy, exercises for cognitive needs or other options.

It’s vital for patients to have a dedicated team of health professionals when symptoms change. That’s when patients and family members experience uncertainty and need understanding and answers from their care team.

It’s also important for MS patients to receive support for emotional changes that often accompany the condition. People with MS may experience depression, stress, anxiety and mood swings, particularly when the disease progresses.

Patients benefit from nurturing personal relationships and making positive lifestyle choices that help them to ward off relapses and manage symptoms. Socializing, engaging in activities such as exercise or hobbies, attending events and stimulating the intellect are as important as taking medication as prescribed, eating nutritious foods and sleeping well.

Patients and their families should receive personalized attention

Treating MS is a patient-centered effort. The variables associated with the condition mean that the patient and health care professionals need to watch for changes in symptoms and health status so treatments can be adjusted. Some patients are eligible to participate in clinical trials for new and innovative treatments.

People with MS can improve and maintain their quality of life by focusing on enhancing their strength, flexibility and resilience. They deserve to receive high quality care from health care professionals who recognize their uniqueness and treat them as the remarkable individuals they are.

Stanya Smith, MD is a neurologist with ProHealth Medical Group and sees patients in Oconomowoc and Waukesha. ProHealth’s MS services are recognized for comprehensive care by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. For information, visit ProHealthCare.org/MS. To watch a ProHealth Minute interview with Dr. Smith, visit ProHealthCare.org/MS-video. To learn more about MS treatment, call 262-928-8200.

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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.