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The Top 10 Facts You Need to Know About Multiple Sclerosis for MS Awareness Month

March is indeed Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month! It's an important time for raising awareness about this neurological condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can vary widely and may include fatigue, weakness, difficulty walking, numbness or tingling, vision problems, and more.

During MS Awareness Month, various organizations, support groups, and individuals work to increase understanding of MS, share resources for those living with the condition, and promote research efforts aimed at finding better treatments and ultimately a cure. It's a time to educate others about the challenges faced by those with MS and to advocate for improved access to care and support services.

Dr. Lisa Doggett, author of Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis - joined host Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino on The Best Ever You Show to discuss her book, facts about MS and awareness month.

 Here are ten key facts about multiple sclerosis (MS):

  1. Autoimmune Disorder: MS is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. In MS, the immune system targets the protective myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers in the central nervous system.

  2. Prevalence: MS is one of the most common neurological disorders affecting young adults. It is estimated that over 2.8 million people worldwide are living with MS.

  3. Variable Symptoms: MS can cause a wide range of symptoms that vary greatly from person to person. Common symptoms include fatigue, weakness, numbness or tingling, vision problems, balance and coordination difficulties, and cognitive impairment.  

  4. Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS): The most common form of MS is relapsing-remitting MS, characterized by periods of new symptoms (relapses or exacerbations) followed by periods of partial or complete recovery (remissions).

  5. Progressive Forms: Some individuals may develop progressive forms of MS, where symptoms worsen over time without periods of remission. These forms include primary progressive MS (PPMS) and secondary progressive MS (SPMS).

  6. Risk Factors: While the exact cause of MS is unknown, certain factors such as genetics, environmental factors (such as vitamin D deficiency), and viral infections may contribute to the risk of developing the condition.

  7. Diagnosis: Diagnosing MS can be challenging because symptoms can mimic those of other conditions. Diagnosis often involves a combination of medical history, neurological exams, imaging tests (such as MRI), and spinal fluid analysis.  

  8. Treatment Options: While there is currently no cure for MS, there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms, reduce the frequency of relapses, and slow disease progression. These may include disease-modifying therapies, symptom management medications, and rehabilitation therapies.

  9. Lifestyle Management: Lifestyle factors such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, stress management, and avoiding smoking can play a significant role in managing MS symptoms and overall well-being.

  10. Research and Awareness: Research into MS continues to advance our understanding of the disease, leading to the development of new treatments and approaches to care. Increasing awareness about MS and advocating for improved access to care and support services are crucial in supporting individuals living with MS and their families.


These facts highlight the complexity of MS and the importance of ongoing research, awareness, and support for those affected by the condition.

About Up the Down Escalator: Medicine, Motherhood, and Multiple Sclerosis

A memoir of triumph in the face of a terrifying diagnosis, Up the Down Escalator recounts Dr. Lisa Doggett’s startling shift from doctor to patient, as she learns to live with multiple sclerosis while running a clinic for uninsured patients in central Austin. Recounting before and after the discovery of her MS, she chronicles vexing symptoms while trying to be an attentive mother, wife, and a caring family doctor.

Facing the prospect of a career-ending disability as she adjusts to life with multiple sclerosis, Dr. Lisa Doggett is forced to deal with a new level of uncertainty and vulnerability, and the everyday fear that something new will go wrong. Taking off her white coat—becoming a patient herself—she confronts unimaginable fears, copes with her limitations, and sidesteps her skepticism of alternative medicine to seek help from unlikely sources. Drawing on riveting patient stories, Doggett reveals the dark realities of the dysfunctional U.S. healthcare system, made all the more stark when she becomes the one seeking care.

MS pushes Doggett—a perfectionist at heart—to soften her inner drill sergeant and embrace self-compassion. As a patient, she learns to advocate for herself to ensure on-time medication deliveries and satisfactory treatment plans; to navigate chronic dizziness, relapses, and parenting frustrations; and to push her physical limits as a runner to go farther than ever before. As the director of a health clinic for the uninsured, Doggett’s MS inspires an even deeper empathy as she confronts challenging cases, prompting her to work harder on behalf of those in her care, many of whom struggle with illnesses more serious than her own.

This hopeful and uplifting book will encourage those living with chronic disease, and those supporting them, to power forward with courage and grace. It will spark conversations to redefine perfect parenting and trigger uncomfortable discussions and outrage about the vicious inequalities of health care in the U.S. Most of all, it will inspire readers to embrace the gifts of an imperfect life and look for silver linings, despite life’s detours that sabotage plans and take them off their expected paths.


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