People living with MS have a variety of needs and concerns, including:
- Management of neurological symptoms of the disease, such as weakness, tremor, loss of vision, cognitive changes, sexual problems and others
- Support for related emotional and psychological issues
- Rehabilitation interventions to enhance mobility, independence and quality of life
- Employment issues such as disclosure, job accommodations and disability insurance
- Education about the disease process for people with MS and their families
- Reproductive issues and parenting
- Caregiver issues
- Life planning and long-term care options
- Wellness strategies
While some people with MS have access to comprehensive care teams made up of health professionals from a variety of disciplines who address the whole spectrum of care, others utilize individual practitioners in their community. The health professions who are likely to be involved in a person’s care at some point over the course of the disease include:
- Neurologist – a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to the nervous system.
- Nurse – a key member of the comprehensive patient care team who often acts in a management role. The nurse provides a link for physicians and other health care professionals with persons with MS, their families and the community.
- Nutritionist/Dietician - a person with expertise in food and nutrition who provides education and consultation about diet and nutritional supplements, symptom management, weight management, and food preparation
- Physiatrist – a physician who specializes in the rehabilitation of physical impairments.
- Physical therapist – a rehabilitation specialist who is trained to evaluate and improve movement and function of the body, with particular attention to physical mobility, strength, balance, posture, fatigue and pain.
- Orthotist – a person skilled in making mechanical appliances (orthotics) such as leg braces or splints that help to support limb function.
- Occupational therapist – a rehabilitation specialist who "assesses" functioning in activities of everyday living — including dressing, bathing, grooming, meal preparation, writing and driving — which are essential for daily living.
- Speech/language pathologist – a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of speech and swallowing disorders. A person with MS may be referred to a speech/language pathologist to help with either or both of these disorders. Because of their expertise with speech and language difficulties, speech/language pathologists may also provide cognitive remediation for individuals with cognitive impairment.
- Psychologist - a mental health professional who provides education and support, teaches coping skills, and diagnoses and treats problems with mood and cognition.
- Neuropsychologist – a psychologist with specialized training in the evaluation of cognitive functions. Neuropsychologists use a battery of standardized tests to assess specific cognitive functions and identify areas of cognitive impairment. They also provide remediation for individuals with MS-related cognitive impairment.
- Social worker - a clinician who provides counseling, acts as a liaison with the health care team, and helps people access community resources and apply for benefits of various kinds.
- Urologist – a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of urinary problems in men and women and in the diagnosis and treatment of problems related to the male sexual organs.
People with MS need to keep in mind that not all of their medical problems are necessarily related to MS. Like the general population, they are subject to medical problems that need to be addressed by their family physician. In addition, preventive health measures, such as annual examinations and age-appropriate screening tests, are just as important for people with MS as they are for everyone else.