Medical Alerts Protect Those with MS

Medical Alerts Protect Those with MS

Let’s talk about medical alert technology for a minute. As you know, these life-saving alert devices have been widely adopted by seniors. And they are certainly a much-needed peace of mind that helps people live independently yet safely. Who doesn’t want the ability to press an emergency button alarm and get immediate assistance for a fall, accident, or medical emergency at the moment it happens?


What is somewhat perplexing is that medical alert systems have not been widely adopted by those with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and other medical conditions that lead to problems with mobility and falling.


Multiple sclerosis is unfortunately known for causing mobility problems – and it’s usually diagnosed when someone is between the ages of 20 and 40. In fact, it’s the most common disabling neurological disease of young adults, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.


An understanding of multiple sclerosis and its effects on the body make it clear that using a medical alert system is a great idea.


A Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis

The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation explains MS as “a chronic neurological condition that affects the central nervous system, which is comprised of the brain and spinal cord.”1

The central nervous system is made up of nerve fibers that are covered with a layer of insulation to protect them. This layer is called myelin. As long as the myelin is intact and unharmed, the nerve signals can travel properly through the nerve fibers.

But in multiple sclerosis, the immune system is working overtime. It leads to inflammation, which in turn leads to damage of the myelin. As the myelin is lost, the nerve fibers are damaged. At the spot where the damage occurs, a lesion will form. Eventually, that lesion hardens with scar tissue.

The name of the disease comes from the fact that there are multiple lesions, or sclerosis, throughout the central nervous system.

What does this mean, exactly? It depends on the person.

Some people have very mild symptoms that don’t cause them much of a problem. Others can have severe symptoms that can lead to partial or even total disability. To complicate matters even more, most people will have a short period of symptoms, known as an attack, followed by a long period when the symptoms go dormant and it appears they have made a partial or even full recovery. This cycle continues throughout the years.

Because the disease is rarely fatal, those with MS live a normal lifespan. So someone diagnosed at the age of 20 might still be experiencing symptoms at the age of 80 or older.

The Symptoms of MS

The symptoms of MS vary from one person to another and the severity of the symptoms varies as well. But experts have identified some early signs that tend to show up in most people. These include:

·        Vision problems that go well beyond the normal signs of aging eyes. These can include blurriness, double vision, rapid vision loss, and a condition called optic neuritis, which causes pain when you move your eyes.

·        Tingling, numbness, or pain in the body, especially the arms, legs, torso, and face.

·        Issues with bladder control and incontinence.

·        Dizziness that might be constant or come and go.

·        Difficulty with balance, leading to a constant feeling of clumsiness, especially when walking.

·        Muscle stiffness and muscle spasms that can be very painful.

·        Muscle weakness in the hands and legs.

As the disease progresses, the attacks might include cognitive changes. Problems with thinking, learning, memory, judgment, and concentration are common. Mood changes, such as depression, trouble with expressing yourself, or controlling your emotions are also typical. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, about 50% of all those with MS have cognitive difficulties associated with it.2

Significant fatigue is also a hallmark of MS. This fatigue can be physical, bad enough to make it impossible to complete daily tasks necessary for independent living. It can also be mental fatigue, which makes it difficult to think or even carry on a conversation with someone else.

The muscle weakness, stiffness, and difficulty with balance can often lead to terrible falls. Because of this significant risk, many with late-stage or severe MS will use a wheelchair for their own safety.

Since those with MS often experience changes that are quite unpredictable, using a medical alert pendant is vitally important. Having medical alert technology right there at your fingertips allows you to call for assistance at any time, day or night. And if you opt for a button alarm with fall detection, you are even better protected from the possibility of serious injury.

Why Does MS Happen?

That’s a good question and no one really has a definitive answer. Scientists do know that women are much more likely to develop MS than men are. They have also found that the immune system might be going into “overdrive” and attacking healthy tissue after a bout with a severe infection of some sort. MS has also been linked with the Epstein-Barr virus.

Though multiple sclerosis is not inherited, it does seem to run in families. That suggests that there’s a genetic component. In fact, some genes have been identified that are associated with MS, and most of those are associated with the immune system response. Some of them are the same genes that play a role in other autoimmune diseases, including lupus, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Environmental factors play a role as well, and this is where you might be able to protect yourself as much as possible from developing multiple sclerosis. Those who spend more time in the sun and thus have higher levels of vitamin D are less likely to develop MS, and those who already have MS might see a less severe disease and fewer relapses. That might explain why those who are from regions around the equator have a much lower risk of multiple sclerosis than those from more temperate climates, such as the United States or Canada.

And you might not be surprised to learn that smoking can play a role in your risk for MS. Studies have found that those who smoke tend to have more brain lesions than those who do not. Those who smoke are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis in the first place, and they will probably experience more aggressive attacks.

Living with Multiple Sclerosis

A diagnosis of MS is made through MRI scans, a lumbar puncture, and a look at how the nervous system responds to stimulation. Sometimes all three will be used.

There are numerous treatment options that reduce the severity of symptoms and help slow the progression of the disease. These can include corticosteroids, plasma exchange, infusion treatments, and medications that modify the cells in the hopes of easing the progression. The range of medications available today is quite impressive and doctors can often switch a patient to a new drug when one stops working as effectively.

Managing MS symptoms with home and lifestyle remedies can be a game-changer for those who want to continue living independently. Here are some good options:

·        Use a medical alert button. Whether you are 20 years old and have just been diagnosed with MS or you’re 90 years old and have dealt with it for a lifetime, having an alert button at your fingertips at all times can alleviate a great deal of stress and worry. You can take it anywhere with you, from a walk with a friend in the neighborhood to a relaxing shower at the end of the day. Those with MS never know when they might deal with the weakness, balance problems, and muscle stiffness that accompany this condition, but a medical alarm means there isn’t as much worry about when or where those things will happen.

·        Visit your eye doctor regularly. Special glasses can be fitted for those with MS to help alleviate the double vision, uncontrolled eye movements, and depth perception issues that are common among those with MS. Resting the eyes often, such as listening to a podcast with your eyes closed instead of watching television, can be a significant help.

·        Turn to physical therapies. Stretching, proper exercise, water therapy, or physical and occupational therapy can all help ease the stiffness and weakness of MS. Staying more active can also help alleviate the significant fatigue that can strike at any moment. Taking medications to help with painful muscle contractions can make it easier to exercise.

·        Use assistive devices. Never hesitate to use a walker, cane, or wheelchair if necessary. Though weakness and difficulty with balance are early symptoms of MS, over time other problems can develop, such as tremors or uncoordinated movements, especially when walking. Assistive devices can help you stay safe from falls and avoid the dire consequences of a broken hip or head injury as a result of those falls. Using a personal emergency response system is a good idea for those moments when all your precautions fail and you wind up falling down anyway – an unfortunately reality for many who live with MS.

·        Talk to your doctor about fatigue. The tiredness that comes from MS has been described as a whole other world of fatigue, one that makes it almost impossible to perform the most basic daily activities. This can make it very difficult to live independently. Taking the proper medications, getting daily exercise, occupational therapy, stress management programs, and avoiding exposure to hot weather can all help ease the fatigue.

·       Take medication as directed. There is a wide variety of medication available for the symptoms of MS, including those that help with bladder incontinence, different types of pain, cramping and stiffness of the muscles, and even sexual dysfunction that can occur when certain parts of the spinal cord are damaged. Taking medications without missing a single dose can help ensure that you get the maximum benefits.

·        Talk to someone. Clinical depression is common among those with MS – it can happen as part of a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by the lesions, or it can result from dealing with the reality of a chronic illness. Cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants, and support groups can all be helpful.

·        Be patient with yourself. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be frustrating and the changes in the disease from day to day – or even hour to hour – can seem to make no sense at all. Well-laid plans can change in an instant if you wake up one morning unable to get out of bed. No one could blame you for feeling sad, disappointed, depressed, or downright angry with the situation. Be patient and kind to yourself as you go through the ups and downs of this unpredictable condition.

Finally, don’t hesitate to use the wonders of alternative therapies to help. Some benefit greatly from acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage therapy, herbal supplements, biofeedback, and more.

It is highly recommended to keep a medical alarm with you at all times for safety. A medical alert system with fall detection can help ensure that no matter how you are feeling, you have the safety net of trained professionals at a 24/7 monitoring center, ready to assist you at a moment’s notice.