Putting the
Disease in Focus

Multiple sclerosis is an insidious disease. It’s a gradual process that can make it difficult for patients to move around, leaving many with impaired mobility or even housebound. Symptoms like unsteadiness, blurred vision, and slurred speech can make it easy for people unaware of the condition to think that patients have had “one too many” – resulting in an unnecessary stigma. But with the understanding and support of a very loyal companion, we discover how one patient comes across research that reveals new ways of managing the disease.

Spotting the signs

With a nose like mine, there’s not much that goes unnoticed. So when my best friend started to act strangely, I knew something wasn’t quite right. Playing fetch in the park every day, I gradually noticed that his aim was a little off. His fingers were unusually numb and stiff. At first, he just shrugged it off. But as time passed, he also experienced problems running around with me and the kids – his legs just didn’t seem up to it anymore. I’m usually good at sensing whether he’s excited, tired, or stressed – but this felt different. He blamed it on temporary exhaustion, a brief spell that would go away by itself. But when his vision started to cause problems, we knew something was up.

Returning from the clinic with news of his diagnosis, it was clear that it was something serious. According to the doctor, my friend has multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, slowly destroying the protective myelin layer around the nerves [1]. 

It causes a wide range of symptoms that can make everyday life a lot harder, from fatigue and paralysis to blurred vision, slurred speech, and continence issues. I can’t imagine what it’s like to no longer be in control of your own body, unable to freely navigate your surroundings and environment.

And like many of the 2.3 million people affected by MS worldwide [2], my friend found it increasingly difficult to get around, and was often embarrassed by his symptoms being mistaken for those more commonly associated with drinking too much alcohol.

Managing Day-to-Day Life

Naturally, we were curious and concerned about my friend’s options, so it was comforting to find out that treatment is available. According to the doctor, MS therapies have come a long way since the 1960s. The late 1990s saw the introduction of immunosuppressants and immune-modulating therapies, which paved the way for current therapies that now help my friend to manage his condition.

But in saying that, there is no cure. My friend has adapted well to the treatment program recommended by his doctor and uses tips and reminders to help him take his medication as prescribed. I try my best to support and distract him – and if you ask me, getting out of the house for some fresh air is the best medicine! That’s why I’m always ready to join him on short strolls to the park.

It’s amazing to see the progress he’s made. But I can’t take all the credit. We’re both very grateful to those who work tirelessly to address the unmet needs of those living with MS. Their dedication and ongoing research are aiding the development of new treatments, designed to give my friend hope – to live a life that’s less affected by the disease.

Positive Outlook

No matter what happens, I’ll be there to offer my friend support. Until now, medical science has given us treatments to help manage symptoms of MS, reduce exacerbations of the disease and slow disability progression. Maybe one day it will lead to an outright cure for the disease.

According to what he’s read about MS research, the current focus lies in tackling the loss of nerve strands and cells during the chronic phase of MS and modulating components of the immune system involved in triggering the condition.    

But why stop there? Perhaps one day it’ll be possible to go even further. But I’ll leave that to the experts. After all, I’m just the humble family dog.    

New perspectives in managing multiple sclerosis.

We can imagine it. Can you?

[1] National Institute of Neurology Disorders and Strokes. Multiple sclerosis: hope through research. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Multiple-Sclerosis-Hope-Through-Research Last accessed July 2018.

[2] MS International Federation. What is MS? Available at: https://www.msif.org/about-ms/what-is-ms/ Last accessed July 2018. 

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