Symptom management is an essential component (Cohen, 2008; Henze et al., 2006) of comprehensive MS care. While disease management therapies reduce disease activity and slow progression for many people, it is the ongoing management of symptoms that allows people to function in their daily lives with optimal comfort, safety, participation, and quality of life. Given the wide variety of neurological symptoms that can occur in MS, interdisciplinary care is the key to effective management.
Any symptom of MS can be either acute or chronic. Acute onset of any of these symptoms could indicate an MS relapse that may or may not require high dose steroid treatment, depending on the severity and nature of the symptoms. Some of these acute symptoms may not fully recover and may leave residual symptoms that become chronic, including weakness of the extremities, ataxia, bladder dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, dysarthria, dysphagia, sensory problems and pain, sexual dysfunction, tremor, vertigo, visual impairment. Chronic symptoms generally include ambulation problems, cognitive impairment, fatigue, heat sensitivity, mood changes and spasticity,
Working with patients to manage their symptoms requires awareness not only of the functional impact each symptom might be having, but also the ways in these visible and not-so-visible symptoms affect them emotionally, socially, and vocationally. For most people with MS, the symptoms that are obvious to others at home and at work represent only a small part of they are experiencing – and coping with – on a day-to-day basis. The symptoms that others cannot readily see or understand may actually have the greater impact on people’s lives and interactions with others. Click here to see the National MS Society’s publications for your patients.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis: Management strategies and psychosocial implications
Below are links to information about each symptom, including treatment options, psychosocial implications, professional publications, tools to assist with communicating about these symptoms with your patients, and patient education resources.