Speaking of Multiple Sclerosis

The other day I was listening to XM Radio and had it on the Doctor Radio Channel – yes, that is my guilty pleasure. I tune in to in and listen and learn, a few moments at a time while I make short drives here and there. I often learn something new, but sometimes I am surprised at how much I already know.

This particular day it was a cardiology radio show and they were talking about an email they had received with a question about a heart condition, but instead of spelling out all the words, the writer had used a variety of medical abbreviations such as ICD and CABG. This prompted the show’s host, who is a cardiologist, to speculate that the writer must be a worker in medical care because of all the initials. This got me started thinking of all the multiple sclerosis discussions we have where it turns into using shorthand to share details.

A conversation written in shorthand about this chronic disease might read something like this:

I went to the doctor for unexplained SX and the doctor suggested a possible dx of MS. I was surprised. What do we do next? Well the doctor says we might need to do more tests but first we do an H&P. I said my CC was my vision – first I had problems with my OD but then the OS was also affected so I ended up with blurriness in OU. I also have balance problems but I don’t know shorthand for that one.

Funny how they check labs for everything, including STDs and RA markers. The doctor says my CBC and other lab work look good but I should watch my LDL and HDL. Then I am told we need to do an LP to check my CSF for o-bands. That didn’t sound like fun but what choice did I have?

To make my short story shorter, it turns out I got a positive DX for MS and had to start with a DMT quickly. The big question is what kind? The doctor offered choices of QD, IM, SQ or IV therapies. It was confusing. I did some research and asked the doctor what about taking LDN or having HSCT? The doctor just looked at me, perplexed as to what I might know about these other TXs.

I would guess most everyone reading this who lives with MS understood almost every bit of this example, right? If not, I've included a translation guide at the end of this article for reference. You don’t have to be a medical expert to want to communicate quickly and efficiently about our health and we can be quick learners. We don’t have to be inside the medical system to understand the language, as the cardiologist had suggested about her letter writer. We all want to speak and understand the same language when it comes to our health and I think all of us as engaged patients go out of our way to understand medical terms, one letter at a time.

Wishing you well,


Translation ins case there was one or two you didn't know:

  • CBC - Complete Blood Count
  • CC - Chief Complaint
  • CSF - cerebrospinal fluid
  • H&P - History and Physical Examination
  • HSCT - Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
  • IM - intramuscular (injection)
  • IV - intravenous
  • LDN - low dose naltrexone
  • LP - lumbar puncture
  • MS - multiple Sclerosis
  • OD - right eye
  • OS - left eye
  • OU - both eyes
  • Q.D. - once daily (oral medicine)
  • RA - Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • SQ - subcutaneous (injection)
  • STD - Sexually Transmitted Disease
  • SX - symptom
  • TX - treatment

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