Your doctor has told you that you have multiple sclerosis (MS). This disease affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Symptoms vary from person to person. With time, each person may have different symptoms. For some people, symptoms last days to months, then lessen or go away. For others, symptoms don't improve or only very little.
Over time, symptoms may get worse (progression), and it becomes harder to take care of yourself. Some people have very little progression. Others have more severe and rapid progression.
Try to stay as active as you can. Ask your health care provider what kind of activity and exercise are right for you. Try walking or jogging. Stationary bicycle riding is also good exercise.
Benefits of exercise include:
- Helps your muscles stay loose
- Helps you keep your balance
- Good for your heart
- Helps you sleep better
- Helps you have regular bowel movements
If you have problems with spasticity, learn about what makes it worse. You or your caregiver can learn exercises to keep muscles loose.
Keep from Getting Overheated
Increased body temperature can make your symptoms worse. Here are some tips to prevent overheating:
- Exercise in the morning and the evening. Be careful not to wear too many layers of clothes.
- When taking baths and showers, avoid water that is too hot.
- Be careful in hot tubs or saunas. Make sure somebody is around to help you if you become overheated.
- Keep your house cool in the summer with air conditioning.
- Avoid hot drinks if you notice problems with swallowing, or other symptoms get worse.
If you are having trouble moving around in your house easily, talk with your provider about getting help.
Your provider can refer you to a physical therapist to help with:
- Exercises for strength and moving around
- How to use your walker, cane, wheelchair, or other devices
- How to set up your home to safely move around
You may have problems starting to urinate or emptying your bladder all the way. Your bladder may empty too often or at the wrong time. Your bladder may become too full and you may leak urine.
To help with bladder problems, your doctor may prescribe medicine. Some people with MS need to use a urinary catheter. This is a thin tube that is inserted into your bladder to drain urine.
Your provider may also teach you some exercises to help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Urinary infections are common in people with MS. Learn to recognize the symptoms, such as burning when you urinate, fever, low back pain on one side, and a more frequent need to urinate.
DO NOT hold your urine. When you feel the urge to urinate, go to the bathroom. When you are not at home, take note of where the nearest bathroom is.
If you have MS, you may have trouble controlling your bowels. Have a routine. Once you find a bowel routine that works, stick with it:
- Pick a regular time, such as after a meal or a warm bath, to try to have a bowel movement.
- Be patient. It may take 15 to 45 minutes to have bowel movements.
- Try gently rubbing your belly to help stool move through your colon.
- Drink more fluids.
- Stay active or become more active.
- Eat foods with lots of fiber.
Ask your provider about medicines you're taking that may cause constipation. These include some medicines for depression, pain, bladder control, and muscle spasms.
Keep up to date with your vaccinations. Get a flu shot every year. Ask your provider if you need a pneumonia shot.
Ask your provider about other checkups you may need, such as to test your cholesterol level, blood sugar level, and a bone scan for osteoporosis.
Eat healthy foods and keep from becoming overweight.
Learn to manage stress. Many people with MS feel sad or depressed at times. Talk to friends or family about this. Ask your provider about seeing a professional to help you with these feelings.
You may find yourself getting tired more easily than before. Pace yourself when you do activities that may be tiring or need a lot of concentration.
Your provider may have you on different medicines to treat your MS and many of the problems that may come with it:
- Make sure you follow instructions. DO NOT stop taking medicines without first talking to your provider.
- Know what to do if you miss a dose.
- Store your medicines in a cool, dry place, and away from children.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if you have:
- Problems taking drugs for muscle spasms
- Problems moving your joints (joint contracture)
- Problems moving around or getting out of your bed or chair
- Skin sores or redness
- Pain that is becoming worse
- Recent falls
- Choking or coughing when eating
- Signs of a bladder infection (fever, burning when you urinate, foul urine, cloudy urine, or frequent urination)
MS - discharge
Fabian MT, Krieger SC, Lublin FD. Multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 80.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Living Well with MS. Nationalmssociety.org. www.nationalmssociety.org/Living-Well-With-MS. Accessed July 22, 2016.
Schapiro RT. Managing the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Springer Demos; 2014.
- Bathroom safety for adults
- Caring for muscle spasticity or spasms
- Communicating with someone with dysarthria
- Constipation - self-care
- Constipation - what to ask your doctor
- Daily bowel care program
- Gastrostomy feeding tube - bolus
- Jejunostomy feeding tube
- Kegel exercises - self-care
- Pressure ulcers - what to ask your doctor
- Preventing falls
- Preventing falls - what to ask your doctor
- Preventing pressure ulcers
- Self catheterization - female
- Self catheterization - male
- Suprapubic catheter care
- Swallowing problems
- Urine drainage bags
- When you have urinary incontinence
Review Date 7/4/2016
Updated by: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.