Common Problems Related to Multiple Sclerosis
Since multiple sclerosis’ primary targets are the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves, it is not surprising that problems consequently arise from those parts of the body that are directly or essentially linked with these vital organs. Once the damage blocks the signals from traveling between the brain and the others parts of the body, MS symptoms start to manifest, hitting multiple sites, wherever nerve loss occurs. Symptoms may come in the form of slurred speech, numbness, blurred vision, poor sense of balance, loss of coordination, tremors, impaired memory, and concentration. However, no two people develop exactly the same MS symptoms. Some of them may experience all of the aforementioned symptoms; others may only have a few; while there are also those who do not show any of the symptoms, at all.
Particularly, the cognitive ability of the person is one of the most heavily affected. In fact, statistics reveal that of the multiple sclerosis sufferers, there are approximately 60 percent who experience mild cognitive problems, while others may have either mild to moderate temporary impairment. But only about 10 percent of whom may develop into a more serious cognitive problem. Nevertheless, cognitive alterations may be as devastating, or even worse, than physical alterations. The most common cognitive problems that an MS sufferer experiences include: impaired memory; decreased speed on information processing; inability to retain attention and concentration; difficulty in abstract reasoning, problem-solving, and executive functions; impaired visual perceptual skills, difficulty with verbal fluency, and general intelligence.
Impaired memory. Once affected by multiple sclerosis, individuals who used to have good memory may now find themselves forgetting appointments and recent events.
Decreased speed on information processing. MS sufferers may now need considerable time, or even repetition of messages, in keeping up with incoming information, as their ability to process them has remarkably weakened.
Inability to retain attention and concentration. MS sufferers now get easily distracted by interruptions or competing stimuli, and they can hardly focus on anything; thus, finding it tedious to multi-task.
Difficulty in abstract reasoning, problem-solving, and executive functions. Individuals who used to be highly-organized and endowed with problem-solving skills may now be caught in a dilemma about planning and trouble-shooting issues, as they can no longer generate alternative solutions. They lose their mental agility to move from one concept to the next. Unfortunately, they are not even aware of this situation.
Impaired visual perceptual skills. They usually lose, or lessen, their sense of direction and orientation of space. These problems prevent them to effectively do their usual routine like driving, or reading a map, for example.
Difficulty with verbal fluency. Affected individuals may now find it difficult to find the appropriate words to say during conversation as their speech has slowed.
General intelligence. Literally, this particular aspect is usually not affected. But since the individual functions that comprise general intelligence, such as memory, reasoning, and perceptual skills, have weakened, the risk of getting lower intelligence quotient, or IQ, becomes high in the long run.
Moreover, aside from cognitive alterations, multiple sclerosis sufferers may also experience physical changes, such as: fatigue, bladder/bowel problems, urinary tract infection, constipation, pain, and muscles problems.
Having a loved one or family member with multiple sclerosis could be a challenging matter, and this is where the humanitarian aspect in everyone should prevail; meaning adjustments have to be made. It is important to deal with MS sufferers with love and patience. Recognizing and learning to adapt to certain impairments can largely lessen misunderstanding about a member’s carelessness, seeming indifference, inattention, and forgetfulness. It could also be helpful to build an open communication among family members, including the affected individual, so everyone may be able to adjust accordingly.