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Things to Consider if you have Multiple Sclerosis

April 04, 2024 -
Things to Consider if you have Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, causing damage to the nerves. Sclerosis means “scarring,” so it literally means “multiple scarring,” as it can occur in more than one location in the brain and spinal cord.

An estimated 130,000 people in the UK are living with MS and 130 people are diagnosed with the condition every week. The majority of diagnoses are in women in their 20s and 30s, but it can strike both sexes at any age. The condition has received a lot of publicity due to it affecting some famous people, including actress Selma Blair, musician Don Van Vliet and TV host Montel Williams, to name just a few.

Symptoms of MS

MS can cause a wide variety of symptoms. These include fatigue, muscle weakness, stiffness, balance problems, memory difficulties, vision impairment and problems controlling the bladder and bowels.

What makes MS particularly challenging is that symptoms vary, not only from person to person but from one day to the next. This unpredictability can make it difficult to adjust to life with MS.

It can also make the condition hard to diagnose, as it is easy to mentally dismiss any one of those symptoms in isolation as part and parcel of getting older. The symptoms can just as easily be misread by others. For years, singer Don Van Vliet was assumed to be under the influence of alcohol when he sometimes appeared stumbling and confused in public. It was later understood that these were symptoms of his MS.

Mobility aids make it easier to live with MS

Many of the most common symptoms of MS can make it difficult to get around. The following mobility aids can be helpful for those living with MS to maintain their independence and to improve their quality of life.

Canes – for those who have mild balance issues or weakness, a walking cane can make all the difference. As well as providing extra stability, it is also a psychological support for people with MS who are worried about sudden balance problems occurring unexpectedly.

Crutches – these are helpful for people with MS who have more severe symptoms in terms of balance problems or weakness in the legs. There is a wide choice of crutches available, including handy folding ones that can fit in a travel bag. It is important to consult with a physical therapist to make sure you choose the right crutches for you.

Walkers – these come in different types and provide more support than canes and crutches. They are a good option for people with MS who have more difficulty walking. Three wheeled walkers are highly manoeuvrable, while four-wheeled walkers offer the most support, so it is advisable to try both and see which best meets your needs.

Wheelchairs – people with MS who are no longer able to walk safely will benefit hugely from a wheelchair. Manual wheelchairs demand either upper body strength to be self-propelled or the assistance of an attendant to push. Alternatively, a powered wheelchair provides the means to get around independently, and is more compact and practical around the house than a scooter.

Scooters – a mobility scooter helps anyone with MS to go anywhere, even if they have severely limited mobility and strength. Operated at the touch of a finger, some have a range as high as 35 miles on a single charge.

Incontinence aids – some symptoms of MS can lead to embarrassment as well as discomfort. There is a full range of incontinence products available to give you the confidence to get out and about regardless of the curve-balls that MS might throw at you.

Braces – an ankle foot orthosis (AFO) controls the range of motion in your foot and ankle and helps to stabilise its position. It is a type of brace that is commonly used to prevent foot drop, a condition that is common among those with MS, in which the toes drag on the ground during walking. Other braces can be used to support weakened muscles or improve joint stability, and again, a physical therapist’s advice is essential to ensure you choose the right support for you.

Choosing the right mobility aids for MS

MS is a progressive condition, so it is important to recognise and acknowledge changes in your symptoms. If you feel that you are getting weaker and are unable to undertake the activities you once could, you must reassess the mobility devices you use.

Be sure to consult with your doctor, physical therapist or primary care practitioner to help you make the right choices, especially when selecting aids like braces and crutches. The unpredictable nature of MS means that many people who live with the condition use multiple mobility aids depending on their physical condition on a given day and the activities they are undertaking.

For the best advice about living with MS, and caring for those with MS, visit the MS Society and Multiple Sclerosis Trust

Jon Wade
Jon Wade

Jon has been working at CareCo since 2019. He uses his extensive product knowledge to provide insights and advice on the best mobility aids for every occasion.

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