Friday, July 01, 2005

Signs and Symptoms

Current Meds:
1. Prednisone (12 tablets {60mg} in morning for 2 weeks then 4 tablets {20mg})
2. Citalopram 10mg once daily
3. Lorazepam 1mg at bedtime

Current Symptoms
Physical: fatigue
Sensory: Optic neuritis in left eye
Psychological (memory/mood): none
Medication side effect?: rapid pulse, uppity, headache

A question was struck to me a few days ago about what I could expect to happen from my MS. Besides the obvious, blind in left eye, nasty bruse on left hand where IV was and being fatigued, I thought I would get into a more detailed rant about what an MS patient can expect, what not to expect, and how to manage what is to come.

The real expectation is this, symptoms vary, there is no way of predicting the course of the disease. It is a bit like sailing with only an unexplored map and a compass with no up to date weather information or GPS tracking; a storm could roll up anytime and knock your ship off course, leaving your sails flapping in the breeze. With treatment, however, there is a chance you could learn to tie tighter knots in your riggings and weather the storms with a steady hand and an even keel, leading to peacefull seas of tranquillity in between the tempest cycles.

While these symptoms vary in intensity, they are also random. Everyone with MS experiances the effects of the disease in a different way. These symptoms are not a guide to what will happen or even what could, they are just what most people commonly experience. Knowing what can happen and how to manage it is key to making it through the rough seas ahead.

I'll begin by listing the symptoms I have personally experianced in chronological order followed by a short description then move on to the other symptoms I have no first hand knowledge of.

Numbness and tingling - the first symptom I had about 5 years ago. I had what felt like little seizures in my left leg, arm and face that lasted for 3 days. Numbness and tingling can last from days to weeks and may also be accompanied with a prickling or burning feeling in areas of the body.

Weakness - MS may cause loss of strength in the arms, legs, and face, as it did to me where I got the numbness. The degree of weakness is variable. It may be that you could have trouble walking a far distance that you could normally cover or you could go limp in certain muscles, it depends on a situational basis.

Fatigue - by far the most devastating effect on me is fatigue. It is a hard thing to fight. MS fatigue is probably realted to physical weakness. Fatigue varies from feeling tired after a full night's sleep to physical exhaustion in the middle of the day. Very common symptom for a lot of MS patients.

Unsteadiness and dizziness: this was the most distressing symptom for me, even more than the left side paralysis. I had spinning sensations and vertigo for about 3 weeks, it was fairly severe.

Double Vision - this lasted about 2 weeks, images appeared side by side or on top of one another. For this symptom to apply to MS it has to last for days to weeks.

Loss of vision - As the current state of my left eye, the optic nerve from your eye to your brain becomes inflamed (optic neuritis). Loss of vision has to be for days or weeks to be attributed to MS.

Depression - I went through a serious bout of depression about a month ago. It is commonly expected that people with MS may experience depression at some time in the illness.

That brings us up to date for my symptoms. What else is possible?

Pain - a common symptom that can appear in many varieties. Some type of pain are only mildly irritating while others are more severe. It's not always easy to distinguish MS pain from other causes.

Shaking and loss of coordination - can cause problems walking, handwriting, talking, or swallowing food. (I may have had some trouble with my left hand shaking at times.)

Bladder and Bowel Problems - These may include constipation and an increased need to urinate. Rarely incontinence is also a problem.

Unusual Physical Sensations - such as numbness, or a tingling electric feeling caused by bending the neck, known as Lhermitte's sign, is common in MS. (May have had this on occasion as well.)

Cognitive changes - Short-term memory loss and difficulty putting thoughts into words, trouble concentrating or paying attention.

Speech problems - slur words or talk more slowly and/or have trouble swallowing.

Sexual side effects - In men, difficulty maintaining or acheiving an erection, in women, personal dryness and in both, decrese in sex drive and desirability.

2 important things to remember:
1- there is no definate course of MS, symptoms vary in frequency and severity from case to case.
2- MS symptoms are hard to diagnose as MS symptoms because there is a large list of causes for most of these symptoms. It is important to rule out other possibilities first.

The most important thing to remember is not to expect anything. Don't dwell on what can happen. What will happen will happen, it can't be predicted or controlled any more than it is. Knowing that things are likely to happen does not mean that it will. A lot of MS patients live full, productive lives and continue to do many of the things they enjoyed in life before their diagnosis. Myself included. See you on the Judo mat!!!


At 2:37 PM, Blogger dave said...

Your attitude, as I've already said is admirable. I,m at Soldier's memorial hospital in Middleton (that's right, nanny's old stomping grounds). The phone number is on our voice mail if you need to reach me.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger MOM said...

hey Doug
you know how much iiiiiI love you .If you need me just call. Right now there is a big storm here ,thunder and lighting. very scary. Im so impressed with your site and I'm very proud of you . Can't wait till you get here. love more as nany always said Mom


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