A new video series, which aims to support people living with a form of multiple sclerosis (MS), has been launched.
MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system, which causes a gradual degeneration of the nerves. This results in a progressive deterioration in various functions controlled by the nervous system, such as vision, speech and movement.
An estimated 9,000 people in Ireland are living with MS and the most common form of the disease is relapsing remitting MS (RRMS), which is characterised by numerous relapses of symptoms and remissions.
Relapses can last for days, weeks or months, but after each relapse, you may recover completely.
The new video series is aimed at people who develop secondary progressive MS (SPMS). Studies suggest that 50% of those with RRMS will go on to develop SPMS within 10 years, while 90% will develop it within 25 years.
With SPMS, symptoms do not go away completely after a relapse or flare-up and the level of disability increases steadily.
The video series was launched by MS Ireland and Novartis and it aims to support people living with RRMS, those who are transitioning to SPMS, and those who are already living with SPMS.
It cover topics such as how to recognise the small signs of SPMS, the impact on cognition and how to access information about your rights.
"The transition to SPMS can be a daunting experience and one that brings up many questions. Our aim in launching this video series is to ensure that there is valuable information available at all times so that none of these questions go unanswered.
"We hope that the series is a source of comfort and reassurance for people living with SPMS, but also for their families and loved ones," commented MS Ireland CEO, Ava Battles.
The video series was developed in collaboration with experts Dr Niall Pender, head of the Department of Psychology at Beaumont Hospital and associate professor in neuropsychology at Trinity College Dublin, and Prof Gavin Giovannoni, professor of neurology at the Blizard Institute in the Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in England.
According to Prof Giovannoni, the goal for treating people with MS is "to delay their disease progression for as long as possible, through early diagnosis and early treatment".
"MS symptoms include vision problems, tingling and numbness, pain and spasms, weakness and fatigue. With SPMS, these symptoms worsen and occur more frequently and there are greater issues with cognition, bowel and bladder problems. It is important that any change in symptoms are tracked and are discussed with your neurologist," he explained.
Meanwhile, according to Dr Pender, the transition from RRMS to SPMS impacts a person's cognitive abilities "and can result in a slowing of thinking speed, lapses in concentration or ability to retain information".
"The important thing to remember is that this is a disease of variability, not everyone will experience these symptoms and each individual will experience the transitioning process in a unique way. There are techniques we use to help people to manage their symptoms and minimise the impact on daily life," he noted.
The video series, SPMS Explained, can be viewed here.
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