Multiple Sclerosis and the myths that surround the condition

Taryn Davies
Published: April 24, 2018

This Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week, with the help of Dr Eli Silber we debunk the myths that surround this condition and clear up some facts you need to know about it.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

The condition affects both the spinal cord and the brain; however, the cause is still not understood. There is some research to suggest the MS is an autoimmune disease which affects the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is a protective layer in the body which surrounds the nerves; this ensures that electrical signals can travel from the brain to the rest of the body.

In each case, different nerves can be affected and this means that the damage caused can be different for each patient. So whilst some people can lose their ability to walk, others might have no symptoms for periods of time and then suffer from bouts of numbness, tingling and vision loss.

Multiple Sclerosis myths

As every case of multiple sclerosis can differ, there are plenty of misconceptions about the condition. Dr Eli Silber, Consultant Neurologist at The Wellington Hospital, part of the HCA Healthcare UK, shares his expert insight and clears up the misunderstandings about MS.

MS means you can’t be physically active

Dr Silber explains that exercise is essential for good health and wellbeing, and that includes people with MS. Exercise can often be a critical part of treatment for those with multiple sclerosis because it not only improves your mood, muscle strength and mobility, as well as some other symptoms of the condition.

Just because MS can lead to problems with mobility and balance, it doesn’t mean those with the condition can’t exercise. There are plenty of different forms of exercise, and finding the right one is important. Physiotherapy and workouts in the hydrotherapy pool can be beneficial to those who want to manage the condition.

The condition often leaves you wheelchair bound

Dr Silber says that there shouldn’t be an assumption that if you have MS you will need a wheelchair because most people living with the condition don’t develop a major disability.

However, there’s no specific outcome for what MS can do to an individual, so for those whose mobility is affected, tools to help them like crutches, a walking stick or a wheelchair can be a way of retaining independence.

MS can leave you infertile

Multiple Sclerosis doesn’t affect your fertility. It’s important that people with MS might find it more difficult to look after children because of the fatigue issues or mobility problems that can become a symptom of the condition. However, MS will not stop you from having children. Dr Silber explains that he often recommends disease-modifying therapies that are compatible with conception.

Multiple Sclerosis affects everyone in the same way

The reality is MS is an unpredictable condition, whereby every person diagnosed with it experiences different symptoms, as well as different levels of severity too.

Not only will everyone have different experiences when it comes to MS, they’ll also have different ways of managing the condition both when it comes to physically and mentally.

MS is curable

Unfortunately, because MS is a chronic condition there is no cure, currently. However, the condition can be managed through medication as well as other treatments.

When it comes to treating MS it should be done as early as possible, as this improves the health and well-being in the long-term by slowing down irreversible damage. It can also help to lessen the number of relapses people experience.

Only older people get MS

The majority of people who are diagnosed with MS are between the ages of 20 and 50, so it’s wrong to assume that only older people get MS. The reality is, the condition is the most common cause of neurological disability in young adults.

Multiple Sclerosis’ risk is down to your genes

Whilst there is a genetic aspect to MS, the contribution is still relatively low, and the risk of MS is not all in your genes. There are environmental factors that can play a role in determining who develops MS, and these factors include lack of vitamin D, smoking and glandular fever.

MS is a fatal or terminal condition

The life expectancy for those with MS is close to the average population, and whilst the condition is not fatal or terminal if you are severely affected the complications from the condition can lead to a higher risk of death, although this is rare.

The most common causes of death in people with MS are the same for those who don’t have the condition, and these include cancer, stroke and heart disease.