Living with M.S.

"Living with M.S. is sort of like training for a long race. The harder you try, and the longer you keep at it, the stronger you become.
Eventually, looking back, you may be amazed at the power you possessed, even when you had no idea it was within your reach." (Linda Ann Nickerson)


Are flu shots safe for people with multiple sclerosis?

Should MSers have flu shots?

Flu shots have become a perennial preventative public tradition across the United States, particularly with the approach of autumn and the upcoming winter peak flu season. Physicians often advise elderly patients, pregnant women, long-term care residents, health care workers, and those with chronic medical conditions to obtain flu shots to prevent possible influenzaoccurrences.

Is the flu shot for everyone?

Individuals with fevers, egg allergies, and past flu shot reactions are generally advised not to receive flu shots.

Administered by injection, flu shots introduce dead forms of flu viruses, boosting recipients’ own immune systems to gear up to fight potential infection. Most individuals reach optimum flu immunity within two weeks after receiving a flu shot.

MSers should skip the nasal mist flu shot.

The nasal mist flu shot generally contains live flu virus and is not advisable to multiple sclerosis patients.

Recently, neurological researchers have questioned the wisdom of flu shots for patients with multiple sclerosis (M.S.) and other neurological diseases. The main question is mercury.

Do flu shots contain mercury?

Each year, patients line up in clinics, doctors’ offices, hospitals and pharmacies to receive flu shots. Folks even show up for free flu shots (or low-cost flu shots) in grocery stores, local health department offices and pharmacies.

Basically, most public flu shots have contained small amounts of several current influenza viruses, in pre-killed form, along with a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. Thimerosal, which is about 50% ethylmercury, has been used in producing flu shots since the 1930s. Since 1999, the U.S. government has asked for the removal of thimerosal from flu shots, but the vast majority of influenza inoculations still contain the mercury-based preservative.

Some flu shots may contain only trace amounts of thimerosal, but it may be difficult for patients to determine this on site, while waiting for a free flu shot or a public flu shot.

Although many medical experts claim that the thimerosal quantities are too low to pose health risks, others contend that they can indeed be dangerous to susceptible individuals, such as those with MS.

Why is mercury potentially harmful to multiple sclerosis patients?

Medical researchers have hypothesized that mercury poisoning may be linked to MS. Whether mercury poisoning actually causes multiple sclerosis is unproven. Mercury poisoning has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, bulimia, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions.

Certainly, the symptoms of mercury poisoning may mimic the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Mercury is one of the few potentially dangerous compounds that can actually cross the blood-to-brain barrier and cause central nervous system harm, particularly to patients with multiple sclerosis or other neurological diseases. The human body cannot efficiently flush away mercury, as it can many other potential toxins.

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Should multiple sclerosis patients have flu shots?

Doctors vary on the question of flu shots for MS patients. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder. For this reason, MSers may be advised to take precautions (both hygienic and pharmaceutical) against influenza and other infections.

The reason for this is simple. Once a MS patient’s infection-fighting capabilities are awakened (as to fight a case of the flu), the antibodies may go into essential overdrive and begin to attack the myelin in the central nervous system.

Essentially, the body’s own disease-fighting mechanism can lead to a multiple sclerosis exacerbation, relapse or episode.

Many MSers regularly participate in immunomodulation therapies (taking medications such as Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, or Tysabri). These drugs actually modulate the body’s own immune system. As a result, MS patients may find themselves particularly susceptible to influenza and other infections.

On the other hand, MS patients are advised to abstain from flu shots during multiple sclerosis exacerbations or episodes. Also, the nasal mist flu shot (containing live flu viruses) is not recommended for multiple sclerosis (M.S.) patients.

MSers need to check with their own personal neurologists or MS specialists before lining up for free flu shots or obtaining flu shots anywhere else.

Adapted from Nurse Giving a Shot - ClipArtHeaven

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Is there glory in enduring MS?

Living with multiple sclerosis is hard. OK, living with any chronic medical condition is a challenge.

Is that anything to laud?

Maybe not, but enduring the difficult may be reason for celebration. Every day that we get up and do it all again can be counted as a victory.

Scottish author, educator, and minister William Barclay (1907-1978) said this about endurance.

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”

Barclay may be best remembered for these books:

Let’s look at that Barclay quotation again:

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”

I like it, especially on those days when MS feels like a marathon. And maybe the cause worth celebrating is simply doing it well, whatever we are able to do.

Perhaps it’s that whole attitude > aptitude thing.

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ALS ice bucket challenge is cool. What would you do for MS?

Everybody’s doing it. Celebrities, politicians, business leaders, sports stars, and regular folks are pouring icy buckets of water over their heads to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Many are donating to this worthy cause as well.

And they are posting videos of their frigid showers all over Facebook, Twitter, and other cyber-sites.

In more than a few cases, ALS bucket participants are adding their own favorite philanthropies to the mix. We’ve heard mentions of pet rescues, child adoption outreaches, health issues, and many other important causes.

That’s awesome. Good going, everyone. 

What about multiple sclerosis?

If you were to create a meme video outreach for MS, what would it look like?

Here’s my suggestion. Think it fits? Wonder if it’d heat up MS awareness.

Bucket - WP ClipArt
Graphic comment created by this user

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Burning calories, just watching this treadmill guy

Sometimes ya just gotta dance, however ya can. Tap those toes. Snap your fingers. Roll your shoulders. 

Give it whatever you got.

Take this now-viral fitness video, for example. It’s been making the rounds on Facebook and other social media. And it’s so stinkin' fun.

This guy is amazing. Personally, it makes me dizzy with MS vertigo, just watching. But I still think it’s pretty cool.

Maybe I can’t dance on a moving treadmill. Some days, it’s tough just walking a straight line on solid ground. And on those rare occasions when I do walk or jog on a treadmill, I’m pretty much hanging onto that blessed bar for dear life.

But I still find this inspiring. Whaddya think of the treadmill guy?

Video screenshot – fair use

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Reviewing the four types of multiple sclerosis

MS is MS, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, neurologists specializing in multiple sclerosis currently identify four different types of MS.

Diagnosed individuals generally fall into one of the four categories, although the chronic neurological condition can change. That means an MSer may be living with one type of MS, but eventually shift to another form.

What are the four types of multiple sclerosis?

The National MS Society outlines the four forms of MS as:

  1. Relapse-remitting MS (RRMS)
  2. Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS)
  3. Primary-progressive MS (PPMS)
  4. Progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS)

How are these four multiple sclerosis types defined?

Here are the current descriptions of each form of MS.

  1. Relapse-remitting MS (RRMS) – This MS type is marked by distinct attacks, exacerbations, flare-ups, or relapses. Such instances occur periodically (and basically unpredictably), but tend to be followed by partial or total recovery times (remissions), with little or no disease progression. Close to 85 percent of all MSers are initially diagnosed with RRMS.
  2. Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS) – This form of MS may follow RRMS in some individuals. Like RRMS, this MS type includes identifiable relapses. But SPMS usually brings partial recoveries, with symptoms often remaining, or even worsening and leading to more steady disease progression.
  3. Primary-progressive MS (PPMS) – PPMS usually brings more constantly decreasing neurological function in affected individuals. The disease progression may be steady or sporadic. The changes may occur slowly, but remission is rare. Symptoms that arise tend to remain. PPMS may affect approximately 10 percent of MSers.
  4. Progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS) – This rarer MS form is known for steadily progressing neurological symptoms and occasional flare-ups as well. With PRMS, the disease appears to progress without times of remission, although some symptomatic relief may be seen after exacerbations subside.

What are the symptoms generally seen with MS?

To review, the most commonly symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:

  • blurred or double vision
  • bowel function issues
  • chest tightness (MS hug)
  • clumsiness
  • cognitive problems
  • electric shock sensations
  • facial pain
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • heat sensitivity
  • loss of balance
  • memory issues
  • muscle spasms or stiffness
  • nerve pain
  • numbness
  • paralysis
  • speech issues
  • swallowing difficulties
  • tingling
  • tremors
  • urinary incontinence
  • vertigo and dizziness
  • vision loss
  • walking and gait problems
  • weakness
  • and more.
Specialists estimate 60 to 70 percent of those with RRMS eventually manifest progressive symptoms of MS.

Medical experts continue to research, develop, and test potential treatments for all forms of multiple sclerosis.

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With information provided by the
National MS Soicety

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