Multiple Sclerosis Complications

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Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition that can affect your overall health. With adequate management of symptoms, you can live a relatively normal life. However, with severe MS, as well as when it is untreated, some complications can arise. 


Bladder and bowel problems - MS causes interruptions in signals that connect the brain and the bladder and bowel systems. This means that sometimes the body doesn’t receive signals that it’s time to release waste. These bladder and bowel problems usually include constipation, diarrhea and incontinence (where the bladder may be overactive or fail to empty completely). To help with bowel and bladder issues, it is advisable to follow a diet rich in fiber diet or take fiber agents or stool softeners. Other options to help with these issues are nerve stimulation and physical therapy – which may help to regain some function.

Mental health complications - Some people with MS may feel a sense of isolation and face career, economic, and social challenges. If you are feeling low and feel concerned, please let your doctor know.

Vision changes - Vision changes may occur as MS progresses. You may experience some of these symptoms for a short time or they can become permanent. Possible vision complications include blurry vision, double vision, uncontrolled eye movements and even blindness. Treatment may focus on helping you manage vision changes. This could mean wearing an eye patch if you have double vision or taking medication to control the eye movements.

Memory loss and slower intellectual processing – this is an issue that affects many people with MS. These issues could also result in not being able to solve problems and other cognitive functions. Medication and rehabilitation can help people get better. Support from family and friends is also very important.

Sensory problems - When you have MS you may have a feeling of numbness, burning, aching, spasm or even a feeling of tightness. This can be felt around the chest area and it makes it hard to breathe (called an “MS hug”). Most of the time these symptoms pass by without treatment. However, if the symptom persists, medication will be required. Examples are amitriptyline, duloxetine, baclofen, and gabapentin.

Appropriate management of complications can help to maintain your quality of life. Speak to your doctor if you need help.


Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window

Reference: Kamm CP, Uitdehaag BM, Polman CH. Multiple sclerosis: current knowledge and future outlook. Eur Neurol. 2014;72(3-4):132-41.

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