FRIDAY, March 22, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Proper treatment can help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) contend with their disease, an expert says.
"Patients get a predisposed feeling that their life is doomed. That it's going to be a complicated life, which isn't necessarily so," said Dr. Cary Twyman, a neurologist at Penn State Health.
"There are many misconceptions and false information about MS on the internet, so I make sure that each of my patients properly understands what the disease is, how it occurs and the different courses MS can take," he said in a Penn State news release.
In MS, the immune system attacks the brain, optic nerve and spinal cord. Common symptoms include: numbness or tingling in the face, body or arms and legs; pain; fatigue; walking difficulties; muscle spasms; general weakness; vision problems; and dizziness or vertigo.
Most people with MS are diagnosed between ages 20 and 50, and at least twice as many women as men are diagnosed with the disease.
"MS manifests itself in the prime of these individuals' lives," Twyman said. "These people are usually at the ages where raising a family, finding a steady job and creating different purposes in their lives is a priority. This disorder disrupts that."
And the numbers have been increasing. "Incidents of MS have doubled since our last census. More than 800,000 people have been diagnosed in the U.S. alone, with approximately 10,000 new cases diagnosed every year, but there has been less misdiagnosis or people going undiagnosed," Twyman said.
Finding a treatment that targets the malfunctioning immune system should occur immediately after diagnosis.
"We had an explosion of drugs to treat MS, where we used to have none," Twyman noted. "There are now 15 different drugs for people with MS."
Choosing the right drug for a patient depends on a number of factors such as: tolerance to the risk of the drug; the cost of the drug, and how closely the patient needs to be monitored on the drug.
Caring for MS patients has become a team effort, Twyman added.
"It's no longer a physician-only approach to treat MS," he said. "It now involves a team that pays attention to an individual's medical and nonmedical needs to help with their wellness as they live with MS. This team may include nurses, dietitians, social workers and therapists, including the specialties of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and cognitive and behavioral management."
Twyman also identified steps patients can take. Quality of life can be improved by healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise, reducing stress and not smoking.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on multiple sclerosis.