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The Danger of Other Illnesses

Not long ago, I was awoken on the early side of a morning by a persistent pain. Not the typical burning nerve pain that I feel in my extremities, but in my eye, of all places. Upon waking and trying to figure out what was going on, I noticed a small white mass on my eye. This wasn’t optic neuritis or any of the normal vision issues that can come with MS. A subsequent doctor’s appointment determined I had a corneal infection, a fairly rare but somewhat serious condition that can affect your eyesight and even scar your cornea. While everything worked out for me, it was a big reminder that living with Multiple Sclerosis means being ever vigilant when it comes to viruses, infections, and other illnesses.

Easily susceptible to illnesses

Multiple Sclerosis is a disease in which our own immune system attacks our body. It believes our nervous system is a foreign invader and attempts to destroy it. In some ways, it can be thought of as being a bit overactive. Many people with MS can often point to a particular illness or traumatic event in their lives against which their immune system started fighting, but then never stopped after they got better; it fought the illness and then continued on to their nervous system. So our immune system already isn’t functioning correctly. To add to that, many of the medications that we take to slow the progression of the disease intentionally suppress our immune system. That’s great when it comes to fighting MS and stopping it from damaging more of our nervous system, but it also means that our immune system isn’t in tip-top shape to fight off any other illness we might come across.

Danger! We can’t fight off illness as well

With our immune systems both functioning incorrectly and being suppressed, it should come as no surprise that people with Multiple Sclerosis need to be cautious when it comes to other illnesses. Not only can we catch these bugs more easily, but they can also be harder to get rid of. A common cold may last a week for a normal person, but may last twice as long (or longer) for someone with MS. Our immune system can’t attack it as fast or effectively as it once could, leading to not only a longer duration but more severe symptoms as well.

Our MS can also become more active

In addition to more severe versions of these illnesses, we run the risk that our MS will also become more active. Anything that can excite our immune system can be a reason for concern, because if it gets going again, it may be harder to stop. I was once fairly stable with my MS and developed a cold sore (on my nose of all places), one that I failed to treat properly or quickly enough. Not too long after that, despite having some years without any relapses, I entered one of the worst exacerbations of my near 20 years with the disease. So it’s not only the various illnesses we need to be cautious about, it’s our MS as well.

Take precautions to prevent illness

With these immune system problems that we have because of our disease, as well as the way we fight it, we need to be extra attentive when it comes to staying healthy. If someone is sick, we need to avoid them, even if their illness seems minor. We have to wash our hands thoroughly and frequently (that sounds simple, but it’s really something that many people don’t do well enough). My corneal infection that I mentioned earlier is a good example: I’m a contact wearer, and despite cleaning my contacts properly and not sleeping in them, I still ended up with an infection because I am so much more susceptible to them. Basically, I need to do more than the minimum when it comes to cleaning them. We all need to take extra precautions when it comes to fighting viruses, infections, and other illnesses because our situation is different than most people. I’m writing all of this today, as not only a warning to those with MS to be more careful, but to our friends and family. If you are slightly sick, please let us know, and please understand if we decline a visit, refuse to shake hands, opt not to attend a large gathering, or decide to hide away for a while; these are just small, but important, ways in which we fight out disease.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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Comments

  • Contalita
    4 months ago

    About MS making you more susceptible to other illnesses… I didn’t want to mention in the last post.(because of all the different prescriptions that MS patients have to take) I’m taking a Zinc and my doctor also has me Vitamin.B-12 500Mg & Vitamin-D 5000Mg daily & MelisV is right those three vitamins for me has made a big difference in my life also, but; today I came across a recent article about a man well vacationing in Florida and swimming in the ocean contracted & died from a flesh eating bacteria named Vibrio Vulnificus, his daughter said then this past Wednesday he became very ill chills and fever. The doctors noticed dark spot on his skin and once they completed testing they knew exactly what he had. The daughter said that her father had been recently completed treatment for cancer, the doctors had told her that because his resistance was low, made it impossible for her father to recover after being treated with antibiotics. I felt I needed to share this because as the last articles were talking about being more susceptible to germs and with it being summer season that we need to consider germs beyond the a pool. I know that it’s very scary to think of a fast acting germ could kill you, but it’s better than not knowing this; but,can not only help us but, also others who have low immunity.

  • MelisV
    4 months ago

    One thing I found out way too late, my Neurologist in 2014 I believe put me on Vit. D-3 5000 iu daily (I get it at Sams Club) & it made all the difference in my immunity. It’s Day & Nite, I went from having the immunity of a schoolteacher to never getting sick.

    I also take vitamin E 400 iu & liquid Biotin 10,000 mcg both were suggested by the same Neurologist. From what I’ve heard we MS patients lack these vitamins.

    Thanks Devin, hope you feel better soon.

  • Contalita
    4 months ago

    Thanks, Devin Your article what’s not going to be good but timely, due to it being the summer season, a time when many of us walk barefoot it or wear flip-flops ect. This is the time when we should be most vigilant, however; we also need be aware of all the hand sanitizers that include anti-biotics the CDC believes that it lessens our ability to fight off viruses& that includes the people that don’t have MS, so if you consider all the people that don’t always follow through on taking a prescribed antibiotics and all of the antibiotic cleaners that are available in this public restrooms if we(everyone) risk not really catching colds and keeping the longer but any other illnesses. there is one way to avoid germs buy sanitizing your hands or any hard surface, I’ve been using over the years 100% Wintergreen alcohol in a small spritz bottle(using it instead of hand sanitizers) also being a pedestrian by choice I ride on the bus I found it to be a discreet but very defensive way of avoiding the spray from anyone coughing or sneezing also white vinegar has been used for centuries as a way of disinfecting hard surfaces when soap and water wasn’t available. Thank & if anyone else has any natural ways to fight germs, please share ☺.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thank you @Contalita, you make a great point about it being the summer time. I’m typically much sicker in the summer (including right now). It really is a time of year when we need to be even more vigilant, as many others are not.

  • OofMs
    4 months ago

    This is good information. But omg i’m already like super worried about getting sick everyday. I already wash my hands like very two minutes. I try to explain this to my mom(who I still live with) and two brothers. But It’s hard when my brothers go to school and get sick like all the time. I’m scared to even leave my room sometimes. MS is really just awful (and my extreme anxiety does not help).

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thank you @OofMs and @wolfmom21fl, i personally find that when I come near children, I end up pretty sick, however, I have rarely see them, I imagine you guys might be more acclimated to them. While it’s important to take the right precautions, we have to be mindful of not letting it ruin our lives. We do what we can within reason, it’s still important to live your life. If you get sick, which may happen anyway, it sucks, but you deal with it.

  • wolfmom21fl
    4 months ago

    I was living with my son, his fiance and her 2 young children aged 6 & 7.. when school started last year they were bringing home evry cootie in the county it seemed. UGH. i was getting sick every other week it seemed. i couldntdeal with it. i can feel your pain.. I started to leave the hand sanitizer at the front door and MADE then use as they came in from school and would not let them in my area til they were changed clothes after school. that did help but geez.. seems the germs just followed them everywhere.. they dont understand the entire idea that my immune system is comprimised and i am gonna sick from them even if they dont…

  • zeus73
    5 months ago

    This problem has caused me a lot of frustration with many doctors…those I have seen for illnesses or injuries not directly related to MS but that impact my disease.An example is when I have had a sinus infection. Despite explaining my body’s inability to recover without an antibiotic or that 5 days won’t do it and that I need a longer prescription, I have been sent home with a minimal dose or nothing. I get sicker and sicker, my MS starts acting up and then I’m so weak it’s hard to get back to the doctor’s office and I’m uncomfortable and out of commission longer than necessary. I had one GP who understood and took precautions but then I had to move away and start with all new doctors who simply ignore my concern. I’ve wondered if there’s something wrong with the way I communicate. I’ve wondered if I’m not forceful enough. After all, I figure it’s going to be my shortcoming, not theirs. Don’t know what’s up with this but the problem has pursued me as I’ve moved between doctors over the years.

  • wolfmom21fl
    4 months ago

    its not you.. i had an issue last year where everyone in m,y hosuehold got sick with an upper resperatory thing.. they all got better within 4-5 days.. Me? i was still struggling after 2 weeks. i went to my PCP and she gave me antibiotics for the bronchial infection.. i told her the same thing.. a Zpack for 5 days wasnt gonna cut it.. she was like well this is a standard course of treatment.. yes.. i am not not a standard patient.. LOL.. a week and a half later i was back in her office still sick only now the bacteria was that much stronger because she hadnt listened to me the first time.. i ended up going back to my pulmonologist in the other county because HE knew how to treat my illnesses and how i responded to this sort of thing.. within another 10 days i was much better because he had also added a full 2 weeks course of steroids as well

  • bruscor
    4 months ago

    @Zues73 and @Wolfmom21fl,
    Yes, I feel you regarding doctors just prescribing minimums to us for a cold, etc.. I have become VERY firm and straightforward with the PCP or Urgent Care doctor over the last couple of flu years. I try to build a relationship with a PCP prior to cold season so they know me when I come. You see, I am a Medicare insured person (compliments of my MS disability) so until this last year I have had so many different PCPs – all changing dependent upon my insurance, a different provider each year to pair with the job I was able to hold before being fired again and again and again …. then Medicaid since I couldn’t earn anything since I couldn’t work… and a different PCP each time – exhausting. So now with Medicare I have taken charge and will settle for nothing less than the “big guns” drugs to stop whatever is attacking my body right away. I tell the doctor, “I have MS. This cough will quickly change into bronchitis rapidly followed by walking pneumonia and then pneumonia where I will need to be hospitalized. Do give me as much as possible NOW. I don’t care about the ‘antibiotic efficacy’ issue. I have MS so I am working with nothing to do the fighting on my behalf in my system. Prescribe the Big Guns, NOW. Thanks”

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thakn you @zeus73, that’s such a good point you make and an issue that many have to deal with. We struggle with “specialists” properly understanding and being well versed in our illness, let along other doctors who have even less understanding.

  • l4u95h
    5 months ago

    My family (sband and both daughters) just visited our family doctor Monday and I always feel kinda odd with fist bumps but that is what he does and it makes total sense! Less likely way of sharing germs.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thanks @l4u95h, I like that, any way to minimize the spread of germs!

  • asapcynthia
    5 months ago

    This probably is silly, but I draw the line at relatives and other people kissing me on the mouth. It’s mostly old people, and yes it’s my mother in law so judge me people if you want, but no. I’ll turn my head at the last second so the kiss lands in the vicinity of my cheek well north of my mouth. I have four brothers not big at affection, probably going back to our youth because when somebody got close it usually meant punches would be thrown, so we fist bump. (Old habits die hard). I’m not big on hand sanitizer either. I think it just makes stronger germs.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    5 months ago

    Thank you @asapcynthia, not silly at all! Even aside from the immuno-comprised like us, many of those traditions such as kissing and handshakes are slowly starting to by the way side. The more educated folks are, the more they realize that those old traditions are not in the best interest of anyone/

  • TracyQS
    5 months ago

    Thank you. For me, the worst was 5 years ago…Sepsis, almost overnight. I was hospitalized for 4 days, and fortunate to make it home at all.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    5 months ago

    Sorry to hear @TracyQS, that sounds awful!

  • asapcynthia
    5 months ago

    You dodged a bullet there. A lot times sepsis moves too quickly to treat, or else it doesn’t respond to the antibiotics and sepsis won’t wait until they figure the right one. But you must have been one sick puppy. Sorry you had such a miserable time in your life, but glad you are here to tell the tale.

  • TracyQS
    5 months ago

    Yes, I surely did dodge a bullet. It is a frightening thing to become so ill, so quickly. I am very grateful to have recovered. I am EVER vigilant now.

  • chong61
    5 months ago

    TracyQS,

    You most certainly are fortunate to survive with sepsis. My husband of 58 years was working in his garden one morning and he died that night in the hospital. His diagnosis was sepsis.

  • TracyQS
    5 months ago

    Oh, I am so sorry to hear this sad news…I do count my blessings. I wish you the very best .

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