Why Those with MS Need a Medical Alert


As we get older, our odds of developing certain diseases can increase. For instance, diabetes and Parkinson’s are two diseases that become more common among the elderly population. But there are some diseases that tend to onset during our more active, middle-aged years, such as multiple sclerosis.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord. No one is really sure what triggers this attack. Over time, MS results in damage to the myelin, which is the protective, insulating layer around the nerve fibers. It can also damage the nerves themselves. This then affects the central nervous system, which is made up of the spinal cord, optic nerves, and brain.

In fact, the name “multiple sclerosis” comes from the scar tissue that grows over the damaged areas – multiple scars, or multiple sclerosis.

The result of the damage is a variety of symptoms that come in either gradually or suddenly, might arise one day and vanish the next, or might continue for years. These symptoms can include memory problems, pain in various parts of the body, numbness or tingling, mood changes, fatigue, balance issues, weakness, vision problems, blindness, or even paralysis.

Everyone experiences MS differently, so what one person feels as a result of the myelin damage can be entirely different than what someone else feels. That’s one of the most frustrating aspects of MS for many who suffer from it – it can be wildly unpredictable.

Why a Button Alarm Matters

Those diagnosed with MS should immediately take steps to make their homes and themselves as safe as possible, and that includes investing in an affordable medical alert system. This emergency response solution becomes extremely important as MS can cause symptoms of weakness or balance issues. And because the nature of MS is incredibly unpredictable, you might go to bed one evening feeling just fine but in the morning, you could have trouble walking. Even if you have no history of falling, MS can change that in the blink of an eye.

Since no one knows exactly how MS will progress, we would recommend covering all your bases. An on-the-go medical alert pendant with fall detection is your best bet for ensuring that you can get help when you need it, no matter where you are. If you are an active person who might be far away from home, consider a medical alert watch with GP, pedometer, and weather app.

What Causes MS?

No one knows what causes MS. There’s no clear reason why some get it but others don’t. There might be some genetic factor, though studies are not conclusive on this. Abnormalities in the immune system or some environmental factors might be a trigger.

In 2017, it was estimated that women made up three-quarters of the number of those who have MS. Most are between the ages of 20 and 50. Though it seems to be most common among Caucasians of northern European ancestry, it does also occur in African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Latinos, and other ethnic groups.

Interestingly, MS is more common among those living further from the equator[1].

How to Lower the Risk of Getting MS

No one knows why MS strikes, but there are some key factors that scientists have identified that might make you more susceptible. In addition to the short list above, some points scientists have discovered include[2]:

·         Smoking. Just as smoking affects everything in the body, so is the case with MS. Those who smoke are more likely to get it and even more likely to feel more severe and rapid disease progression. Stopping smoking seems to slow the progression.

·         Lack of Vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels in the blood tend to increase the risk of MS. The sun exposure might also explain the fact that those nearer to the equator don’t develop MS as often as those who are further away from it.

·         Obesity. Those carrying extra pounds during childhood and adolescence have an increased risk of developing MS. This is especially true for females.

·         Infectious diseases. Some viruses and bacteria are suspected to play a role in the development of MS. Some of these include measles, the Epstein-Barr virus, canine distemper, human herpes virus-6, and more. Though you can’t prevent some of these, others you can protect against through vaccinations.

4 Types of MS

There are four main types of MS that have been identified by the International Advisory Committee on Clinical Trials of MS. These include:

·         Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS). This is the first episode of MS, which must last for at least 24 hours. It is defined as a neurological symptom that is caused by inflammation and damage to the myelin. If a lesion is detected on MRI, there is a higher likelihood that the person will go on to develop MS.

·         Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS). RRMS is defined by new and increasing neurological symptoms, followed by partial or complete recovery. The name comes from this relapsing and remission cycle. About 85 percent of people with MS are first diagnosed with RRMS. This is a very unique experience for each person, as the symptoms can vary, go away suddenly, show up just as quickly, and the cycles aren’t predictable.

·         Primary Progressive MS (PPMS). This is a type of MS characterized by worsening neurological function with no remission. There might be brief periods when the MS is stable, but the general path is one of progression to worsening symptoms.

·         Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS). This is a progressive form of the disease where those who have been diagnosed with RRMS see worsening neurological functioning over time. The disability gradually increases over time even if there is no evidence of further problems on the MRI.

Another term you might hear is Radiologically Isolated Syndrome (RIS). This means that an MRI of the brain and/or spinal cord has found what appear to be the lesions of MS, but the individual isn’t suffering any neurological symptoms. This is usually an incidental finding after someone has gone in for an MRI for a headache, concussion, or some other reason unrelated to MS[3]. A study in 2020 found that among those who have RIS, just over half go on to develop MS within ten years[4].

Even if you are diagnosed with RIS and show no symptoms at all, it is still important to protect yourself against the eventuality that you might experience symptoms of some kind. Some of those symptoms could include weakness, coordination problems, or issues with balance, which can make you a fall risk. A medical alert watch or pendant to get in touch with emergency services is definitely a good idea to give you peace of mind after a challenging diagnosis.

Living With MS

According to a study by the National MS Society, about one million people in the United States have MS, as well as 2.3 million people across the world. Some put that number at 2.8 million[5]. That number will become more certain with the introduction of the National Neurological Conditions Surveillance System, which is controlled by the CDC. The system is an effort to collect data on neurological conditions.

For all that is unknown about MS, there are many things that we do know. For instance, breakthroughs in treatments and prevention of complications have led to an increasing life expectancy for those with MS; today, those with MS can expect to live at least 25 to 35 years after their diagnosis, assuming no other factors and diseases come into play[6].

Those who suffer from MS do not usually become severely disabled; in fact, more than two-thirds of those who have MS continue to be able to walk, though they need some assistance, such as a cane. Since MS can sap your energy, cause balance problems, and lead to weakness, some will choose a scooter or a wheelchair[7].

There are some things you can do to help ease the symptoms. These include medications that alleviate the symptoms surrounding MS, as well as those that help slow disease progression – though these don’t work for everyone.

There are some practical things you can do as well, such as staying cool. Heat intolerance is a big problem for those with MS. Hot weather, sun exposure, overheating from exercise, hot showers, or the fever that comes with illness can all cause a spike in symptoms. Stay cool with lots of iced drinks, fans and air conditioning, cold compresses, and even a cooling vest[8].

Since it can be so tough to determine what your symptoms might be or how severe they might get, it can be difficult to devise a home care and treatment plan for MS. However, there are some things you can do that will help no matter what the symptoms are[9]:

·         Record symptoms. Keep a daily journal about how you feel physically, what your symptoms are, their severity, and how you are feeling emotionally.

·         Inform your loved ones. They need to know how you are feeling and what help you might need. This is especially true for family or professional caregivers.

·         Focus on your mental health. MS can be incredibly frustrating. Things you can do to ease that include meditation, journaling, talking to a counselor, reading self-help books, and turning to friends and family for support.

·         Explore treatment options. Talk to your doctor immediately about the symptoms and what could be done about them. It’s very likely there are medications that could be added or changed to your normal regimen that can help you feel better.

·         Be prepared. Don’t let a potential flare-up of symptoms throw a wrench in your plans. For instance, if problems with mobility tend to be one of your most common symptoms, have plans to take public transportation instead of driving, or talk to a family member or friend about taking you where you need to go. If one of your symptoms is trouble with your vision, have magnifying glasses, sunglasses, eye drops, and other things handy.

And always be prepared with your medical alert device. Because MS is unpredictable, some might feel a gradual onset of symptoms, while others might feel them suddenly, all at once. That’s why it’s so important to keep a medical alert pendant or watch on you at all times, even in the shower, where the fall risk is even more severe than it is in other parts of the home. Medical alert technology can allow you to reach out for help from anywhere, and if you choose fall detection, the device can even send an emergency alert for you in the event that you can’t. When you’re suffering from MS or any other chronic medical condition, peace of mind can go a long way toward improving your quality of life.