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)


Optic Neuritis: A Look at Sudden Blindness

Insights on instantaneous vision loss from experienced individuals

Vision is veritably vital. Just ask anyone who has every lost his or her eyesight, even for a short while. Optic neuritis is one cause of such an unnerving event. Having faced this ordeal personally, I decided to interview several others and compare our experiences.

Let’s look at specific individuals, who have battled sudden blindness firsthand.

Adapted from PD4Pic public domain photo.

 NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author (LAN/Kicking MS to the Curb) holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.

What is optic neuritis?

Basically, optic neuritis represents an inflammation of the optic nerve, which runs from behind the retina of the eye to the brain. This results in a rather sudden loss of vision in that eye. The inflamed optic nerve may swell or even suffer demyelination, or physical damage, in an optic neuritis episode.

What causes optic neuritis?

Experts differ on pinpointing the exact cause of optic neuritis. In many cases, optic neuritis may result from an infection (such as herpes, toxoplasmosis or sinusitis). It may stem from a neurological disorder, a nutritional deficiency or even toxic levels of alcohol, tobacco or harmful chemicals.

Most often, however, optic neuritis seems to be caused by autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or multiple sclerosis (M.S.). In fact, optic neuritis has been the most common initial indicator of multiple sclerosis (M.S.) in currently diagnosed multiple sclerosis (M.S.) patients.

What are the symptoms of optic neuritis?

Optic neuritis may affect one eye, or it may attack both eyes at the same time. The condition may be experienced as a sudden loss of vision, a deficiency in color vision (known as dyschromatopsia), an inability to discern visual contrasts (light and dark) and eye pain. The symptoms and level of distress may vary with each individual and each episode of optic neuritis.

In some individuals, the vision loss from optic neuritis can be quite instantaneous and acute, as it was for Brian G., of South Africa. “I completely crossed a major highway and caused an accident, after suffering from severe pain behind my left eye for days. My vision just dropped in seconds,” he said.

“I could only see things in one dimension,” said Jen C., of Boston, Massachusetts. “Everything was flat.”

“It felt to me like I was wearing glasses with big fingerprints on them,” explained Carey S., of New Zealand. “My optic neuritis changed from black spots to wide smudges to double vision with lots of black spots in my peripheral vision. I felt almost like a cartoon character, seeing stars.”

Shannon V., of Pennsylvania, had a similar experience. “I didn’t have any sort of pain or tingling,” she recalled. “But I had a line through my vision, kind of like an optical migraine. I also had a spot that was completely black in the right corner.”

“I woke up one morning and opened my eyes to see a distinct line horizontally across my left eye,” recounted Mary Lou C., of New York. “It was similar to looking through bifocals, except the top half was normal, and the bottom half was like looking through a coffee-color stained glass.”

“I didn’t know what it was for a few weeks,” added Rebecca N., of Australia. “I just assumed it was part of a migraine. MY left eye had a dark ‘C’ shape in it. I would see, but the ‘C’ was in my vision. Also, it hurt around my temple and eyebrow when I looked around.”

An individual experiencing optic neuritis for the first time may imagine a foreign particle may be in one eye. Scott S., of Albany, New York, related this symptom this way: “I thought I had something in my eye. I kept rubbing it. One day later, I woke to find I would not see anything in that eye.”

Jodi C., of Fargo, North Dakota, agreed. “It felt like I had smudged glasses on, and the smudge didn’t go away, no matter how much I rubbed my eye. Also, I had pain behind my eye, and bright lights made it unbearable.”

Optic neuritis can be quite uncomfortable, as Krista L., of Boston, Massachusetts, pointed out. “I had a significant amount of pain over my left eye,” she said. “It felt like a migraine, but I don’t get migraines.”

Amanda, of New Zealand, said, “I had a strange aching pain in my eye. Eleven hours later, I wouldn’t see anything out of that eye.”

In addition, many celebrities have reportedly suffered from optic neuritis, and even the often accompanying multiple sclerosis (M.S.). These include author Fox-TV anchorman Neil Cavuto, author Joan Didion, country singer Donna Fargo, Disney Mouseketeer and movie star Annette Funicello, actress Teri Garr, singer Lena Horne, country star Hal Ketchum, singer Alan Osmond, R&B star Tamia, talk show host Montel Williams, and many more.

How is optic neuritis diagnosed?

Optic neuritis is usually recognized by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. In addition, visual acuity testing, color vision testing, evoked potential screening and visual field testing may be performed. Most often, the inflammation of the optic nerve may be seen (after pupil dilation) with an ophthalmoscope in an eye doctor’s office. The eye pressure may also be measured.

Optic neuritis is too often missed, when physicians seek simpler explanations for sudden vision loss, particularly when the condition lasts only for a short time. Many medical professionals blame migraine headaches or sinus infections for eye pain and vision deficiencies, overlooking optic neuritis.

“Doctors claimed my experience was the result of a sinus infection, although it later turned out to be optic neuritis,” reported Shannon V., of Pennsylvania.

Linda N., of Wisconsin, recounted similar findings. “I’d been treated for an unbelievable number of sinus infections, over the years, mostly for behind-the-eye pain. This finally pointed to optic neuritis.”

How long does optic neuritis last?

For most optic neuritis sufferers, vision will return (in whole or in part) within a three to six weeks. Some individuals may experience decreased vision, and many will discover they have lost some ability to discern colors (particularly reds) and to perceive light-and-dark contrasts.

Many optic neuritis patients, particularly those with multiple sclerosis (M.S.), may find their vision symptoms returning temporarily with increased body temperature, athletic exertion or stress. This condition has been called Uhthoff’s Syndrome, commonly recognized among neurologists and multiple sclerosis (M.S.) patients.

How can optic neuritis be treated?

Optic neuritis is generally a temporary condition, although many medical professionals do recommend corticosteroid treatment to hasten recovery and prevent additional episodes. Usually, corticosteroids are administered first intravenously (for up to three days), followed by 10 to 15 days of oral steroidal medications.

Can corrective lenses help with optic neuritis?

Eyeglasses and contact lenses do nothing to affect the symptoms of optic neuritis. In fact, most neurologists recommend patients delay regular optical examinations during an episode of optic neuritis, as the visual findings may be distorted during that time.

What long-lasting effects may optic neuritis cause?

Although statistics vary, at least a third of those suffering from optic neuritis seem to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (M.S.) within a few years of this experience. For many, optic neuritis represents the first red flag for a neurological condition, such as multiple sclerosis (M.S.).

Optic neuritis may reoccur as well, affecting the same eye, the other eye or both eyes at once.

For other optic neuritis sufferers, the episodes may be temporary roadblocks, with full or nearly full vision returning fairly soon.

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6 tips for losing weight after steroid use

Steroids are not merely the stuff of athletic star scandals. Physicians routinely prescribe steroids for multiple sclerosis exacerbations and many other conditions. Additional medical applications for steroids include Addison’s Disease, allergies, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disorders, Bell’s Palsy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Crohn’s Disease, dermatitis, Epstein-Barr virus, lupus, Lyme disease, organ transplants, pancreatitis, sarcoidosis, certain skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, vasculitis and more.

Of course, anabolic steroids (which enhance the male hormone, testosterone) are a different sort of medication than the more commonly prescribed corticosteroids. Cortisone, prednisone and similar steroidal medications are of the corticosteroid variety.

Corticosteroids (like cortisone and prednisone) may be administered by inhalation (as an inhaler, mist or spray), by injection (as an intravenous, intramuscular, or subcutaneous dose), orally (as capsules, pills, or liquid medicines) or topically (as creams, ear drops, eye drops, ointments, or lotions).

For many steroid medication recipients, corticosteroid usage (particularly long-term usage) can lead to considerable weight gain.

Photo by GaryRabbit - ABS Free Pic

NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author (LAN/Kicking MS to the Curb) holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.

Weight gain is a common side effect of corticosteroids.

Because corticosteroids can cause increased appetite, decreased metabolism and even a redistribution of body fat, many corticosteroid users become frustrated and disheartened by this long-term side effect.

Body weight gained during lengthy periods of corticosteroid use can be difficult to shed. How can steroid users lose those pesky pounds? Here are six practical pointers for slimming down after corticosteroid medication use.

1. Set down the salt shaker.

Water retention is a well-known side effect of corticosteroid medications (such as prednisone). By sharply decreasing salt consumption, individuals who are taking (or have taken) corticosteroids can lose considerable water weight fairly quickly, eliminating the bloat.

2. Guzzle gallons of water.

Let’s face it. Nearly no one drinks enough water each day, and corticosteroid users are no exception. Increased water intake can help to cleanse the body from toxins, spent medications (such as corticosteroids), and even sodium that has built up.

3. Be diligent about diet.

A healthy diet is important for anyone, but this is particularly crucial for a patient using prescribed corticosteroids (like prednisone). Corticosteroids often cause increased appetite, so users need to scale back on snacking, particularly carbohydrates and fats.

4. Pick up the pace.

Corticosteroids (such as prednisone) generally slow metabolism in users, so regular exercise is essential for restoring this balance. Rigorous physical activity (such as biking, hiking, jogging, skating, exercise walking, or playing sports) helps to prevent corticosteroid weight gain and take off those excess pounds that may have been added while undergoing steroidal treatments. The key is to pursue whatever workouts work for the individual, without overdoing it and setting off another medical incident.

5. Maintain muscle mass.

Many individuals taking corticosteroids for various medical reasons discover, to their dismay, that their hard-earned muscular physiques seem to lose form. Calisthenics, fitness training, and weight lifting can help to retain and restore muscle mass – both during and after use of such corticosteroids as prednisone and similar steroidal medications. In particular, many corticosteroid users focus heavily on abdominal muscles, as the midsection seems to be the main focus of fat redistribution for many individuals taking steroidal medications.

Exercising and weight training may be extra challenging for those living with multiple sclerosis or other potentially disabling medical conditions. Problems with balance, endurance, flexibility, and other issues may come into play. Professional physical therapy or individually adapted fitness training often prove helpful. In some cases, such regimens may be covered by health insurance plans, if initiated by medical prescriptions.

6. Give yourself a break while taking steroids.

Anxiety, irritability, mood swings and stress may accompany corticosteroid regimens – as well as the medical conditions warranting the use of these steroidal medications. Many medical experts recommend that their patients refrain from exercising personal perfectionism during treatment, focusing on healing and recuperation.

Once steroidal treatment has been completed, these individuals may hope to zoom in on weight loss and personal fitness again.

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10 tips for fighting off the fiercest flu

Influenza is abundant around this time of year, and the current flu strain is attacking with a vengeance. Flu sufferers can be sidelined for several days, while others may require hospitalization. Those who battle chronic medical conditions (such as multiple sclerosis) often worry about possible exacerbations, while they slug their way back from influenza.

What can folks do to prevent infection with the dreaded flu?

Adapted from vintage movie still / public domain image

NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author (LAN/Kicking MS to the Curb) holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.

Here are 10 ways to minimize risk of catching and sharing influenza.

When it comes to staving off potential sickness, it pays to take an all-in approach. After all, an estimated 35 to 50 million Americans suffer from influenza each year.

1. Decompress.

Stress sends the human body working in overdrive, which can actually make a person more vulnerable to a host of health problems, including flu infection. Even a few moments of relaxation can help to restore balance and improve one’s ability to fight off sickness. Strategic breathing techniques, yoga, and even quiet reading or games can help an individual to reduce stress.

2. Eat your vegetables.

Veggies are vital for health, as most folks know. Leafy green produce works wonders for stocking the body’s nutritional supply and fighting off flu and other illnesses.

3. Fill up on fruit.

Fruit is another essential for combating sickness. The nutrients in fresh fruit, in particular, bring a midwinter bounty to the body’s immunity system. And the added fiber of fruit keeps the digestive system operating properly, just in case.

4. Get moving.

Exercise is a well-known stress-buster. At the same time, a good sweat can work wonders in purifying the body from germs. What’s more, a few deep breaths in the cold winter air can kill off respiratory germs that tend to lurk in closed quarters.

5. Pour on the fluids.

Proper hydration is a must – particularly during flu season.

6. Skip the sugar and starches.

Who doesn’t crave carbohydrates in cold-weather months? Still, refined sugars and starches may actually reduce the body’s ability to combat flu germs.

7. Sleep well.

Grandma was right. A well-rested individual enjoys better odds of fending off the flu – and recovering more quickly, if he or she should happen to succumb to it. Fatigue adds vulnerability to all sorts of sickness.

8. Stop for a shot.

Each year’s flu shot aims at taking on the current strains of influenza, making this annual appointment important, particularly for the very young, the elderly, or those with any sort of immunodeficiency. Of course, the inoculation doesn’t take full effect for at least two to three weeks after administration, so it pays to be prompt.

9. Take the right vitamins.

Vitamins are vital, especially during the season of sickness. Key components include Vitamins A, C, D, and E. Many nutritionists also swear by cranberry, echinachea, elderberry, garlic, ginger, probiotics, and zinc for fighting the flu.

10. Wash your hands.

Proper personal hygiene may be the most important flu prevention measure of all. Those popular antibacterial soaps and gels may ease consciences, but the real secret to stopping influenza is basic hand-washing with traditional soap and water.

Feel free to follow on GooglePlus and Twitter. Please visit my Amazon author page as well.
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