Let’s say you are an individual who does not have Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and for one reason or another you want to look into MS to find out what it is all about. Chances are you will easily learn that it is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves), which can then cause various symptoms such as blurred vision, muscle weakness, poor balance and numbness (just to name a few of the many, many examples). The problem is, that is just a very quick snapshot of a very small piece of life with MS. What is more difficult to quickly discover online (or even in books) is the fact that there are many “gifts” that MS can bring people such as the many side effects of medications that can sometimes be worse than the typical MS symptoms that people with MS may experience or the not-so-typical MS symptoms that for a lot of people around the world who don’t have MS are considered to be actual diseases/disorders that are difficult to treat. Even the development of a secondary disease as a result of certain treatments is possible! Now, I say “gifts” in the most sarcastic of ways because really they are not gifts that anyone wants – like they say, gifts can be returned…
A vicious cycle
Yes, there is a whole other side to MS and for some people that side is way worse than what most people typically think of when they think “Multiple Sclerosis”. First let’s talk about the catch-22 of medications used to treat symptoms of MS. The best example I can pull from my own life is the medication for fatigue that I am currently using. It makes me extremely dizzy, as in, I can’t function very well because I can’t see straight and am always losing my balance and falling over! So walking obviously becomes a nightmare; moving my head can be sickening and even when I am just sitting in one spot and not moving I feel like I am in motion as if I were sitting in a car on the highway! But without it I just can’t function and get anything done! So, on one hand, I can be so fatigued that I just can’t do anything, but on the other hand, I can have all the energy I need to take care of business but then be too dizzy to really do too much of anything. Catch-22. And by the way, I already know what some of you are thinking and yes, I have not only changed my prescription to a lower dose but I have tried cutting it in half and in quarters, no difference. I have also exhausted many of the other options for treating fatigue with no success. OK, getting side tracked, where was I? Oh yes, catch-22; this can be said about so many of the medications used to treat the many different symptoms of MS, in fact, that can be said about most medications in general. Take this pill and you will get relief from “Symptom A” but it will give you “Side Effect B” but that is ok, here is another pill for “Side Effect B” – but now that pill brings about even more side effects which means more pills… it can feel like a never-ending vicious circle!
Possibility of rare side effects
And then of course, some of the medications used to treat MS can cause rare side effects such as the development of a secondary disease. Many people are aware of “PML” (Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy) being a possible/rare side effect of certain disease modifying therapies (DMTs). Some medications can even cause certain types of cancers or even another auto-immune disease! Increased risk of infection? Kidney or liver problems? Thyroid problems such as Hyperthyroidism or Hypothyroidism? All just possible “gifts” from MS!
But there are some symptoms that people with MS can develop that are not the result of a medication and that by themselves (in people who don’t have MS) may be considered a disease/disorder that many people struggle to properly treat! I am not just talking about symptoms like vertigo, I am talking about symptoms like Reynaud’s Phenomenon/Raynaud’s Disease (which I have talked about here on MultipleSclerosis.net before), PBS (PseudoBulbar Affect) and Trigeminal Neuralgia. Again, there are so many more, many of which I probably have no idea about (I am not a doctor or anything)! MS is an auto-immune disease and even though there is a list of “typical symptoms” that people with MS may experience, there are so many that are not typical because when an autoimmune disease is wreaking havoc in your central nervous system there is just so much that can go wrong.
Are you plagued by many side effects from the medications used to treat your MS or your symptoms? Have you developed a secondary disease thanks to Multiple Sclerosis and the medications it has introduced to your life? What about symptoms that just popped up on their own that typically are considered to be actual diseases or disorders that require treatment? Share below!