Multiple sclerosis long-term health management strategies

For people with multiple sclerosis (MS) — as many as 350,000 Americans and an estimated 200 new diagnoses every week — managing the debilitating symptoms can be an arduous process. A range of medications are available to help with the fluctuating neurological symptoms, such as numbness, lack of balance, muscle spasticity, pain and fatigue, that get in the way of everyday life. But even while addressing the symptoms, people with MS should get appropriate care for other health needs.

"MS is not always disabling and very seldom life ending," says Mayo Clinic's Kathryn A. Stolp, M.D., of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, who specializes in the care of patients with MS. "People with MS can live long, vibrant lives. Their other health needs, beyond MS treatment, should fit into the larger picture of their care."

MS management key points

  • One lesser known effect of some commonly prescribed antidepressants is that they can exacerbate muscle spasticity of MS and further impede walking.
  • Even though managing MS symptoms may overshadow a person's medical concerns, regular preventive health care remains important. Women with MS should still get regular Pap tests and mammograms, and women and men should have colonoscopies.
  • Any new aches and pains should be addressed as they would be for anyone.
  • A physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist can help a patient address and correct musculoskeletal issues, which may alleviate pain.
  • As flu season approaches, people with MS should check with their neurologist about receiving a flu vaccine.