Looking beyond the invisible symptoms on World MS Day

For World MS Day Canadians should take a moment to think about the invisible symptoms of MS

You wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at them, but on average 11 Canadians are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) every day.

For many, early symptoms are nearly invisible – fatigue, weakness, lack of coordination, vision or bladder problems. Symptoms are often overlooked by even those living with early stages of the disease. Symptoms can also be overlooked by unsuspecting friends, family or colleagues, even after diagnosis which, in some cases, can take years.

READ MORE: MS Walk is Canada’s Duty

Today is World MS Day and this year we’re asking Canadians to take a moment to think about the invisible symptoms of MS and the unseen impact MS can have on a person’s quality of life.

Many individuals affected by MS battle invisible symptoms, including challenges with mental health, numbness, dizziness, weather sensitivity, vision loss, debilitating fatigue and more.

Chances are, they are also living with the stigma of having MS symptoms and wrong assumptions about them. They are often mistaken for being lazy, clumsy or even impaired. Just because someone looks okay on the outside doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling on the inside.

MS is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system. One day your body behaves ordinarily, the next it refuses to listen to you.

There’s no warning. There’s no sign that something has changed from one day to the next, making it difficult for people living without the disease to understand swings in a person’s physical or mental health. The unpredictable and episodic yet progressive nature of MS makes it challenging to maintain financial security and navigate health and community support systems including access to treatments, care, and appropriate housing.

Employment is a key factor in maintaining financial security. The average unemployment rate for people living with MS is 60 percent. People with MS want to work and struggle to continue to work, often because of issues related to lack of flexibility and accommodation.

Fortunately, we’ve come a long way in the last 20 years thanks to the generosity of donors who contributed to help fund critical MS research. In 1998, there were only three types of MS treatments available. Today there are 14 disease modifying therapies approved in Canada for people with relapsing forms of MS to consider as part of their treatment and management of MS.

In the 1990s, a woman living with MS (women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with MS than men) would have had no treatment options and been advised not to have a family, not to work or do any strenuous activity.

She would have felt very insecure because her disease was invisible and not understood by employers, and she would have lived in fear of it getting worse and being alone. Today, a woman living with MS has multiple treatment options, may be told it is ok to continue to work and have a family if she chooses. We’ve come a long way in MS awareness and treatment, but we have a long way still to go.

Over 77,000 Canadians are currently living with MS, one of the highest rates in the world. Let’s work collectively to eradicate stigma around MS and make it easier for individuals affected by the disease to share their stories and experiences with the world.

Tania Vrionis is the President, Alberta & Northwest Territories and BC & Yukon Divisions of the MS Society of Canada.

Just Posted

$11 million overdraw for McKenzie Interchange construction

The project has been delayed multiple times and is now estimating a budget of $96 million

French Open at Bear Mountain serves a winner

The US Open is scheduled for Sept. 3 to 8 on the hardcourts at Henderson Park in Oak Bay

Union Club of B.C. votes in its first female president

16-year member Grace Van den Brink previously served as vice president

Alzheimer Society calls for helpline volunteers in Greater Victoria

Charity is in ‘urgent need’ as calls on the rise

Saanich jam stand at the centre of controversy prepares to close

Staff review of roadside stand legislation too late for Little

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

POLL: Do you support the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

The federal government announced Tuesday its approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Ginger Goodwin’s Cumberland cemetery grave desecrated

Just days before the Miners Memorial weekend, Ginger Goodwin’s grave has been… Continue reading

Most Read