Intro to Multiple Sclerosis
Over the last 10 years I have had the pleasure of working with a multidisciplinary treatment team that assists patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). During this time I have discovered that there are many misperceptions about this MS.
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects more than 2.5 million people worldwide. Many individuals think of MS as being a physically disabling disorder, although patients with MS may also suffer from cognitive impairment and/or emotional dysfunction. Cognitive impairment is a change in thinking processes, such as attention, problem solving, reasoning and the ability to use language in order to express ourselves.
Recent memories may also become difficult to recall. It is estimated that up to 65% of all people with MS experience some type of cognitive impairment, with only about 20% having obvious signs of decline in intellectual skills.
Symptoms of cognitive impairment may also mimic some symptoms of depression, and MS patients who are depressed frequently complain of deficits in memory and attention. Loss of interest in social activities, sexual dysfunction and the inability to maintain employment are also similarities between symptoms of depression and cognitive dysfunction.
Depression is very common in patients wit MS. In fact, symptoms of depression severe enough to require medical intervention affect up to at least half of all individuals with MS at some point during the illness. Depression may be the result of a difficult situation or stress, with many patients being concerned about what might happen in the future and how the disease will progress. Depression may also be caused by MS, which destroys the insulating myelin that surrounds nerves that transmit signals affecting mood. Depression may also be a side effect of some drugs used to treat MS, such as steroids or interferon.
The need to identify the presence and/or severity of cognitive deficits, as well as emotional factors, is imperative in formulating more effective treatment plans. Therefore, patients with MS are frequently referred for neuropsychological evaluations. In addition, the assessment provides a baseline with regard to cognitive and emotional functioning, which is beneficial in monitoring changes that may occur in the future.