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Latest Research and Solutions for People with MS Presented at the CMSC Meeting

June 14, 2017

More than 2,000 MS health care providers, researchers, people living with MS, and others gathered at the 31st Annual Meeting of the Consortium of MS Centers (CMSC) in New Orleans in May 2017 to share findings and learn the latest about diagnosing and treating MS, and to hear MS research updates. The meeting also focused on solutions that help people with MS to live their best lives. Many presentations and abstracts from the meeting are posted here. Below are a few highlights of the meeting. Where available, links are provided to the presentations.
 
Choosing apps carefully: Clinicians discussed the use of mobile phone applications to promote healthy behavior in people with MS. Dr. Amy Sullivan (Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH) noted important cautions: personal health information may not be kept confidential by some apps, and as there is no U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversight on health apps, they might offer incorrect or dangerous advice. She suggests making an educated choice by asking lots of questions: What is the cost? Will advertisements pop up? When was the app last updated? Is there a privacy policy? Is there evidence to support what the app claims to do? Is it easy to use? Is it accessible for people with disabilities? Learn more from this session
 
Remote rehab: Dr. Cecilie Fjeldstad’s team (Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation MS Center of Excellence, Oklahoma City) evaluated a home-based physical therapy program, comparing the impacts of types of support provided to 30 people with MS. The results show that those receiving supervision via telecommunication (video chatting) reported similar outcomes to those who received supervision via on-site visits, in terms of improvements in fatigue, confidence, gait and balance. Although additional research in more people is needed, this type of telerehabilitation might be a comfortable and convenient method of delivering exercise therapy programs to people with MS. View the abstract
 
Mindfulness and emotions: Mindfulness-based intervention is a form of meditation aimed at changing an individual’s perception and creating awareness and acceptance of moment-to-moment experiences with the goal of reducing reactions that may worsen pain or emotional distress related to health-related changes. In a study of 61 people with MS, Dr. Ruchika S. Prakash (The Ohio State University, Columbus) and colleagues found that a four-week mindfulness-based attention training program reduced the difficulties that participants had reported in modulating their emotions. View the presentation; learn more about mindfulness and MS

Can anxiety affect learning? MS can cause significant anxiety. In the general population, anxiety can affect learning, so Caroline Altaras (Yeshiva University, Bronx, NY) and colleagues sought to determine whether this would be true as well in 134 people with MS. The results show that anxious participants scored lower on a test of visual learning (i.e., graphs, charts, and diagrams). View the abstract; learn how you can minimize the effects of mood changes on MS
 
The importance of a good diet: Dr. Kathryn Fitzgerald (Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD) and collaborators nationwide studied how diet quality might relate to disease status among participants in the NARCOMS patient registry. Among 7,418 people who completed a questionnaire on diet, they found that a high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, along with a low intake of sugar and red meat, was associated with less disability and depression. View this abstract; Learn more about healthy eating and MS
 
Tackling challenges in the kitchen: Dietitian Karolina Krozeniewski and occupational therapist Megan Parker collaborated to design fun, interactive cooking workshops for people with MS. These informal workshops were designed to tackle challenges such as misleading information on diets, as well as people’s physical and cognitive symptoms. Participants reported that they learned a significant amount and were satisfied with the class. Here are just a few of the cooking tips included in the workshops:
  • Use a lazy Susan to make items more accessible in a cupboard
  • Strategically plan your trip to the grocery store, grouping similar items together
  • When you are working at the stove, have a cold drink nearby and take breaks
  • Use utensils with large handles, or build them up with foam.
View the abstract; learn more about preparing your own meals
 
MS at home: Dr. Kathleen Healey (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha) described the benefits of an “MS At Home Access” program, which provides care to people with MS who have severe disability. Participation includes house calls, daily phone calls, training and education of family and care providers, and weekly plan oversight. Looking at outcomes for 21 participants, there were trends toward reductions in complications and hospitalizations, and very high levels of satisfaction reported by participants and caregivers. View this presentation; learn more about managing advance care needs at home
 
Learning new habits: Gale Byars (Salt Lake Community College, Salt Lake City) talked about how rehabilitation programs succeed better when people develop new habits based on what they have learned in their program. This involves learning to pay attention to the internal cues that lead to negative habits, and developing new habits using positive cues and consistent repetition. View this presentation; read more in a blog by Dr. Kathleen Zackowski.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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