Friday, May 27, 2016

Aging and Multiple Sclerosis

People with MS have been living longer than they did 40-50 years ago, especially since the introduction of disease-modifying medications. Researchers have noted that life expectancy and average age of persons with MS have increased significantly during the past two decades, but remains on average seven years less than the general population. Studies have shown that increased mortality rates are often related to comorbidities, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, depression, lung disease, or infectious diseases. (Marrie 2015)

As people with MS live longer, they begin to face more of the conditions traditionally associated with aging or advanced aged. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between concerns that are related to MS and those that may simply be related to aging. In a recent literature review, researchers discuss several factors related to aging and MS, including common comorbidities, that can help healthcare professionals distinguish between the effects of normal aging, relentless MS disease progression, a new disease common in aging, or some combination of these (Sanai et al, 2015).

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The Effect of Aging and Multiple Sclerosis

Monday, May 23, 2016

Copay Assistance Programs, and More, Available to MS Patients

Copay assistance programs can be blessings for patients who cannot afford to pay for prescribed medications despite insurance coverage. Frequently, drug manufacturers are able to provide financial help directly to patients in need. To access manufacturer-sponsored programs, visit the brand website for the MS drug which you have been prescribed.
For patients who do not quality for manufacturer programs (perhaps due to insurance coverage through government programs such as Medicare), the following non-profit organizations offer additional help paying for medications. Some of these programs even offer financial help with insurance premiums and transportation costs to obtain treatment.
In general, to participate in these programs, the patient must have valid medical insurance that covers the prescribed medication, which in turn must be included on the program formulary; and the patient must meet annual household income criteria established by each program.

  • Good Days
  • The Assistance Fund
  • Healthwell Foundation
  • Patient Access Network
  • Patient Services, Inc
  • Caring Voices Coalition
  • Patient Advocate Foundation

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7 Assistance Programs MS Patients Need to Know

Relapse-Free No More

My journey with MS has had some significant ups and downs. Some of the downs include blindness, complete loss of use of two fingers on my left hand (which is devastating to a classically-trained pianist and teacher), weak arms and legs, all over numbness, impaired balance, fatigue, spasticity, anxiety, and depression.
I’ve been enjoying more of the ups in recent years; really since I switched medication to rituximab (a monoclonal antibody therapy used for RA, lymphoma, and other autoimmune diseases, which should be released in a new form and approved for MS sometime in the next year as ocrelizumab).
After switching medications from Copaxone to Rituxan I began to experience actual improvement in symptoms over time. Functions got better and relapses more infrequent. In fact, I hadn’t had a serious relapse that prompted me to call the neurology office in between routine visits in 50 months. Minor bumps, sure, but nothing big.
FIFTY MONTHS!! How cool is that?

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Damn, My Long Relapse-Free Streak Has Ended

Monday, May 9, 2016

How To Reduce Falling With MS

One of the most fearsome consequences of multiple sclerosis is immobility. People with MS may grow increasingly worried about walking unsteadily; needing to use a cane, arm crutches, or wheelchair; or a reduced ability to be safe while moving from one place to another. Living with MS also means an increased risk of falling, which is more likely to happen at home, during the day, or in the midst of normal activities like turning, walking, climbing stairs, or while transitioning between body postures (Gunn et al, 2014).

Early in my time of living with MS, I remember a day when our family went out to eat at an unfamiliar restaurant. Lunch was excellent and we had leftovers to take home. As we left the restaurant and made our way back to the car, I suddenly found myself face-down in the main entrance to the parking lot, with our leftovers a couple of feet away on the ground. I had stepped off the curb and “tried to walk on air, apparently,” I told my neurologist. I had not become fully aware before this incident that I couldn’t feel my feet, nor the ground beneath them. The lack of sensation significantly increased my risk of falling.

Factors contributing to the risk of falling

Physical symptoms of MS -- such as weakness, spasticity, loss of balance, dizziness, sensory deficits, and tremors -- can contribute to falls. Fatigue, heat intolerance, vision problems, and cognitive changes can increase fall risk, as well. Behavioral risk factors include deconditioning and inactivity. It is important to stay physically active so that you can remain physically active. (That sounds obvious, I know.) Finally, environmental conditions can contribute to falls, including poor lighting, uneven or unsteady surfaces, clutter and obstacles, and even your choice of clothing. And in a bitter kind of irony, both overconfidence and the fear of falling increase the risk of falls.

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Reducing Falls in MS