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The Importance of Preventive Care

Blog Summary

MS had really taken a toll on my new patient. Or so I thought…

She came to see me one afternoon in my family medicine clinic. Her son pushed her into my exam room, and I moved my stool to make way for her wheelchair. One of her arms was rigid, useless. Her speech was slurred, and she reported terrible back pain. As an MS patient myself, I was disturbed to see her, knowing that my fate could be similar...

Self-Advocacy

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Are you kidding me? Another $749 out-of-pocket… just for lab tests? It was another unexpected medical bill, even more irritating than usual because I had called the lab before the test was done to clarify the cost. The lab had assured me I would pay no more than $200, even if my insurance company failed to pick up the tab...

Making a Diagnosis of MS

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There is no avoiding it. Seeing a neurologist for evaluation of a diagnosis of MS can be very stressful. However, understanding what is needed to make a diagnosis may, at least in part, ease some of the anxiety.   Even with all the latest electronic and laboratory studies, an MS diagnosis is still one of exclusion. Unlike a positive biopsy for cancer, there is no single finding on history, exam, or diagnostic study that is unique, or only found, in persons with MS. Thus, making a diagnosis of MS remains one of excluding other diseases that can mimic MS. While this may seem easy, a recent paper from two MS centers reported that 1 out of 5 persons sent to the centers with a diagnosis of MS did not have this disease.1 More than 100 MS “look-alikes” have been described, but most are very rare, and only the most common ones are usually looked for. These include illnesses such as diabetes mellitus, lupus, Sjøgren’s disease, migraine with aura, high blood pressure, brain tumors, blood vessel inflammations and infections...

The Importance of Establishing Care

Blog Summary

For the longest time, I never prioritized the quality of care I was receiving because I thought the scope of my care was just the norm. It wasn’t until I connected with the MS community on social media that I realized I could be doing so much more for myself than I already was! I realized something needed to change when I had brought up the pain I was experiencing and was told it was all in my head. I don’t know about you, but that automatically took me out of my safe zone...

That Was Then, This is Now

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I first heard the words, “You have multiple sclerosis,” in 1986. I had no idea what that was or how I got it. How could this happen to me at the age of 28? I had my whole life in front of me. What would become of me? How will my life change? Will my boyfriend still love me? Will I die from it?   I had so many questions, and there were not many answers...

Mood and MS

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Those of us who have been involved in both the research and care of people with MS walk a tightrope sometimes between pointing out the severity of a problem and solving it. We want to alert our patients without overwhelming them. On Thursday, I attended a session on depression and other mood disorders at the Consortium of MS Centers meeting in Seattle that really brought home how prevalent these symptoms are in people with MS. While the numbers are sobering, the message is clear: bringing this information to light can only bring us closer to finding solutions. Depression is two or more times more prevalent in people with MS than in the general population, says Dr. Scott Patten (from the University of Calgary) in his review of the studies (find his presentation here). When researchers try to find out what factors predict lower quality of life, depression gets high marks. Not surprising, since depression affects how you function at work, in school, in your social life and during recreational activities...

Just Keep Going

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I grew up playing sports, but running was never my “thing.” ​ What I loved was the competition that came with athletics. During the summer, my friends and I would play football until dark when our parents yelled down the street “come home!” As I got older, I would play racquetball for hours, engrossed in the sheer intensity of the game...

Medicare Annual Election Period: What You Should Know

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The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP), or Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP), has arrived. With approximately 25 to 30 percent of people with MS enrolled in Medicare, it’s important to be equipped with useful information to pick a plan that works best for you. The AEP begins on October 15 each year. From there, you have until December 7 to make changes to your plan. Any changes you make during the Annual Election Period won’t take effect until on January 1, 2019. After then, you can’t make changes to your plan unless there is a special circumstance. Here are some general things to keep in mind during this period...

Time for an MRI

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My appointment is at 3:30 p.m.   Some 25 miles away from my home.   The clock says it’s only 12:53 p.m..   Although it won’t be rush hour when I drive to the hospital, you never know what will happen when it comes to Boston traffic, so I want to provide myself a cushion of extra time, so I won’t be late for my annual MRI...

Diet Matters… and It Matters Now

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Greetings from ECTRIMS, the 34th Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS. This is a lion of a meeting–the world’s largest gathering of researchers dedicated to MS. One thing I have noticed is how close MS researchers are getting to the real concerns of people affected by this disease. People with MS have been asking for years about diet–is there a diet that works for MS? Does what you eat matter? The work I’ve seen thus far is beginning to answer these questions (links to the scientific summaries, or abstracts, are provided below)...

Imaginary Pain

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The buzzing throughout my arms, hands, legs and feet had not let up for 3 full days. My annual checkup with my neurologist was just a day away, so I figured, what better timing? I practically danced into the office and was so excited to get some answers about this newfound pain. ​ Enter the man of the hour, and come to find out, it’s… all… in my head? Excuse me?...