Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disorder that is chronic and affects the central nervous system. Nerve fibers in the central nervous system are insulated and protected by a fatty substance called myelin.
With MS, the body attacks the myelin and causes damage to the nerve, resulting in a variety of symptoms. When there is damage or scarring to the nerve, impulses are unable to move through the body correctly, resulting in problems with muscle control, balance, vision, cognition and sensation, to name a few. One of the most common symptoms is fatigue. The disease can vary greatly from person to person.
A diagnosis of MS can be life-changing, not only for the person diagnosed but also for his family and friends. A person’s quality of life can be dramatically impacted. It is important to create a strong support system, since MS can be unpredictable. A support system may include family and friends, health-care providers, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, MS support groups and online support groups.
Research has shown that support groups, made up of peers with the same diagnosis that targets coping skills, self-management techniques and specific behaviors, helped to improve quality of life.
There are many advantages to joining a support group. Patients may learn how to confront new problems and receive advice from peers on managing the disease. Seeing others cope can give hope and provide a sense of empowerment. Many enjoy just being with other people who understand.
Participating in a support group also may be an opportunity to help others who may have more difficult challenges. A regularly scheduled support group is especially important, as persons with MS may find their abilities fluctuate daily.
Baptist Health Multiple Sclerosis Center has partnered with the MS Foundation to provide a free monthly support group for those with MS and their family and friends. “Learn to Fly” meets the third Thursday of each month, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at Baptist Health Lexington. For more information, call me at 859-260-3330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dana Galloway is the MS program coordinator at Baptist Health Lexington.