What Should I Ask My Doctor About Multiple Sclerosis?

A man talking to his male doctor in his officeAlthough you’re likely to start by seeing your family doctor or general practitioner, he or she may refer you to a doctor trained in nervous system disorders, called a neurologist. Here’s some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and to know what to expect.

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How To Prepare For Your Appointment With Your Doctor

1. Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.

2. Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.

3. Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you’re taking.

4. Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information you get during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something you missed or forgot.

5. Write down questions to ask your doctor.

6. Preparing a list of questions for your doctor will help you make the most of your time together. For multiple sclerosis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What’s the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • Will my condition progress?
  • What treatments are available?
  • What are the side effects of each treatment?
  • What treatment do you feel would be best for me?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you’re suggesting?
  • I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there restrictions I need to follow?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
  • Don’t hesitate to ask any other questions.

What To Expect From Your Doctor

Your doctor, in addition to conducting a few tests, will likely will ask you a number of questions before recommending the right treatment options for you, such as:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • Does anyone in your family have multiple sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis: Managing Stress

A woman taking a yoga classHaving a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis (MS) can greatly increase your stress levels. Many issues associated with MS, such as unpredictable symptoms and the cost of treatment, can make stress worse. It’s also possible that stress itself can worsen MS symptoms.

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To help manage stress while living with MS:

  • Adjust your sleeping schedule
  • Make healthy sleep a priority. Missing out on sleep can increase your risk of depression and other mood disorders.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, when possible. Regular sleep schedules maintain the timing of your body’s internal clock and can improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Get extra sleep the night before special events, such as parties.
  • Wake up earlier to give yourself extra time to complete tasks.
  • Schedule regular rest periods so that you have time to recharge.

Use relaxation techniques:

  • Yoga, a series of breathing and stretching exercises, can help reduce tension.
  • Tai chi, which involves slow, deliberate movements, can aid in relaxation. Many tai chi positions can be performed while sitting down.
  • Meditation, or spending time in quiet thought, can help you relax and de-stress.
  • Deep breathing, by itself, can help your body feel more comfortable and reduce stress by easing tension.

Seek support from others:

  • Tell your friends and family about your illness. Having loved ones who understand the challenges you encounter can help relieve stress.
  • Join a support group in your area, so you can share experiences with people who know what you’re going through.
  • Find a therapist who can help you come up with ways to cope with stressful situations.