Who Is Part of Your Healthcare Team?
MS is a lifelong condition with many symptoms. There are many other conditions that can come with MS. This makes a strong healthcare team important.
Who should be part of an MS healthcare team?
The backbone of the team is the primary care provider (PCP) and neurologist. But other doctors, movement and speech therapists, and mental health providers are also important.
Primary care provider
A PCP is a DO or MD trained in family or internal medicine. They manage general medical concerns. This includes high blood pressure, infections, and minor injuries. PCPs are often the first provider seen. A PCP can then refer you to a neurologist. Even after you are diagnosed with MS, routine care is still managed by your PCP.
A neurologist is a DO or MD trained in the nervous system. Once a diagnosis is made, they help monitor MS progression and treatment. Advanced practice professionals (APPs) can also work for a neurologist. APPs include nurses and physician assistants.1
As mentioned, MS can affect the whole body. Depending on symptoms, other healthcare providers may be needed, including:1
- Ophthalmologists: These providers manage issues with the eyes. Neuro-ophthalmologists are trained in neurological conditions that impact vision.
- Urologists: These providers are trained in the urinary system.
- Gastroenterologists: These providers are trained in intestinal and bowel issues.
- Obstetricians and gynecologists: Ob-gyns focus on the female reproductive system. Urogynecologists are trained in female urinary tract issues.
The symptoms of MS can be progressive and impact daily life. Seeing providers who focus on mobility and daily function can be helpful. Several of these include:1
- Physical therapists: These providers use exercises to improve range of movement and reduce pain.
- Occupational therapists: These providers help people complete important tasks. These tasks can include eating, dressing, and household chores.
- Speech-language pathologists: These providers help with speech. They are also trained in diagnosing swallowing issues.
Team members for overall wellness
Taking care of the body as a whole is also important in MS. Additional team members that may be helpful include:1
- Mental health providers: Living with a chronic condition can take a toll on mental health. Talk therapy with psychologists, counselors, and psychiatrists can help. Psychiatrists are also able to prescribe drugs to treat mental health conditions.
- Nutritionist: Our bodies work best when they are fueled well. A nutritionist can help ensure a person is getting the right balance of vitamins and nutrients in the diet.
- Alternative medicine providers: Acupuncture, yoga, massage, and physical fitness are good examples. People trained in these fields can help overall wellness.
- Case managers and nurse navigators: These professionals help navigate care. For example, they can coordinate appointments, find financial resources. Many care centers have them on staff.
Finding your team
Finding the right team takes time and patience. The perfect fit is rarely found on the first try. You might shop around for different providers until you find the right ones.
There are also MS comprehensive care centers with many of these providers all in the same place. This helps team members to communicate. It also means fewer trips to different offices. Your PCP can see if any of these exist in your area.