5 Things Your Loved One Isn’t Telling You About MS
If you have a significant other, friend, or relative with multiple sclerosis (MS), you might know about some of the physical problems that can come with the disease. But chances are, that’s only part of what your loved one deals with.
MS can cause invisible symptoms that can be tricky to talk about.
Living with multiple sclerosis means living with uncertainty. The course of the disease is very difficult for doctors to predict. Some people live with MS for years without suffering serious symptoms. Others may rapidly become disabled. Why the course of the disease varies so widely remains unclear. One thing is certain. Most people with MS experience periodic relapses, also called flare-ups or attacks. These can be mild or severe. They may show up in many different ways. Symptoms can include:
Here are five common problems that many people with MS face, though they might never tell you.
“I can’t stand it when people say, ‘I’m tired, too.'”
For people with MS, fatigue is a regular part of life. Trouble is, “lots of people think that just means I’m tired,” says Ann Pietrangelo, a 55-year-old MS Foundation ambassador and writer who lives in Williamsburg, VA. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah, I know exactly what you mean — I didn’t get enough sleep last night.’ They don’t understand that a nap or good night’s sleep is not going to fix the exhaustion that comes with MS.”
While your loved one might feel fine sometimes, “it’s not uncommon for a person with MS to wake up and take a shower, and that’s about all they can do for the day,” says Karen Blitz-Shabbir, DO. She’s the director of the North Shore/LIJ MS Care Center in Long Island, NY.
Even if their physical energy is up, “brain fog can cause mental fatigue, which makes it hard to get a lot done,” says Matthew McCoyd, MD. He’s a neurologist at Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois.
Be supportive by saying “I’m sorry” or “Can I help you?” rather than sharing how tired you’re feeling.
“I wish you’d ask my spouse if she needs help.”
Something people with MS hear a lot is, “Let me know if you need help.” While specific offers, like “I’m going to the grocery store. Is there anything I can pick up for you?” can be helpful, consider asking the person’s partner, too.
“My wife Laura helps in so many different ways. She gets food for me in buffet lines, carries all our luggage when we’re traveling, does the grocery shopping, and more,” says Dave Bexfield, 46, from Albuquerque, NM.