MS is Enough! Do I Really Have to Worry About Other Health Issues Too?

Those of us living with MS have enough on our plates that surely we should be exempt from other health problems too, right? Well unfortunately, unfair as it may seem, we are not! And because MS comes with a huge variety of symptoms, we are not always that great at recognizing when we should be consulting a doctor.

MS plus other health conditions

Many of us attribute subtle warning signs of other health conditions to MS. We may sweep these symptoms under the rug, leading to a delay in treatment for other conditions. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes are among the top causes of disability and death in the United States, and MSers are just as susceptible to them as the general population is. Don’t get MS tunnel vision, and make sure you are staying aware of your overall health. Also be extra vigilant if you know that you have a family history of any health problems!

Warning signs for other health conditions

There are several general signs and symptoms that all adults should be on the look out for, and that you should speak to your doctor about if you experience them. You may notice that some of these warning signs sound a lot like the symptoms of MS, which is why having a good MS doctor and a good Primary Care Physician in your back pocket is essential. You may need all the help you can get in order to decipher symptoms!

Warning signs of heart disease

  • Frequent Headaches
  • Leg swelling
  • Shortness of breath with light activity such as walking, or going up a flight of stairs
  • Chest pain, pressure, or discomfort either at rest or with activity
  • Persistent dry cough
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is a medical emergency and 911 should be called if you experience sudden symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain, pressure, squeezing, or discomfort that lasts more then a few minutes or that comes and goes
  • Pain or discomfort in your jaw, arm, stomach, or back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Women are more likely to not have any chest pain with a heart attack, and often experience back, jaw, stomach (similar to indigestion) and arm discomfort instead

Warning signs of cancer

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in your urine or stool
  • Unusual lumps (do your self testicular and breast exams!)
  • Easy or unexplained bruising
  • Lack of appetite and/or persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent cough or vocal hoarseness
  • Headaches
  • Frequent infections
  • Unusual looking moles or skin changes
  • Profuse night sweats
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Persistent fever

Warning signs of a stroke

Sudden onset of:

  • Severe headache often described as the “worst headache of my life”
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of your face or body
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking, or understanding what other people are saying
  • Changes in the vision of one or both eyes
  • Difficulty with walking, balance, or using your hands

A stroke is a medical emergency and 911 should be called if you notice these symptoms in yourself or anyone around you!

Warning signs of diabetes

  • Excessive thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Poor wound healing

I’m not trying to scare everyone because chances are if you have MS, you have at least one of the above symptoms! A lot of it does overlap, but unfortunately, I have seen people catch serious health issues too late because they thought it was just another MS symptom. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry! One of the best things you can do for yourself and your overall health is to get your yearly physical and blood work done, because a lot of these subtle things can be caught early by a Primary Care Physician. I know there are already a lot of doctor's appointments, prescriptions, and tests on your plate but save room in your schedule for basic preventative care like physicals, pap smears, colonoscopies, and mammograms too. You never know, they just may save your life!

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