March: MS Awareness Month in Ohio

Ohio ranks among the states with the highest incidence of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the country. So, each year we are asked in various ways in March, including this article, to be aware of this often-misdiagnosed, often-disabling disease.

While these awareness weeks or months help (even if it’s only one person) it seems the most effective awareness of a disease comes when a celebrity is diagnosed with it. The actress, Selma Blair, is the latest well-known person to announce that she has MS.

Ms. Blair in an article in the March issue of Vanity Fair, said that “she had spent the last five years or so fending off a battery of puzzling symptoms that came and went – neck pain, severe vertigo, trouble walking and sudden loss of feeling in her leg. Anxiety and depression too.” Also fatigue.

Had Ms. Blair been aware of the symptoms of MS, she would have changed doctors much sooner. Finally, a new doctor demanded she have an MRI immediately. It showed, her neurologist told her, lesions in her brain indicating that she has MS, an incurable autoimmune disease that interrupts the central nervous system’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body.

Her experiences with symptoms and no correct diagnosis for years were all too common years ago but not since the advent of the MRI with its definitive findings. She should not have suffered those years in vain. That’s why we have awareness weeks and months. The more people know of MS through its symptoms the more they will be able to demand appropriate treatment.

While there is no cure for MS, drugs have been developed to help manage its symptoms and to slow its progression. The earlier MS is diagnosed the better for these drugs to work.

Ms. Blair had many of the classic symptoms of the disease but not all. Other symptoms include: problems with vision. Speech, sex, bladder and bowels. Spasticity (stiffness, spasms) and some less frequent symptoms too. (For complete information on MS go to www.nationalmssociety.org)

It seems that no two people have the same MS, it varies so much by person. It’s as if it’s designed for each person. Its severity and its symptoms cannot be predicted. Some people have attacks and then experience remissions for a while and others have continuing attacks which progressively lead to loss of abilities. Many, if not most people with MS live full lives even though challenged in various ways. Research continues with progress towards a vaccine and/or cure in the future.

Maybe Hollywood has better Plastic Surgeons than Neurologists, Selma Blair should have been correctly diagnosed much sooner and her treatment sooner too. An MS Awareness Month in California may have helped.

We hope this Awareness Month helps someone in Ohio.

– Mel Maurer

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