Multiple sclerosis - Living with 

Living with multiple sclerosis 

A diagnosis of MS is life changing. You may need long-term treatment to control your symptoms and you may have to adapt the way you do daily tasks.

Self-care

Self-care is an integral part of daily life. It means that you take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing, with support from the people involved in your care. Self-care includes the things you do each day to stay fit, maintain good physical and mental health, prevent illness or accidents, and effectively deal with minor ailments and long-term conditions. People living with long-term conditions can benefit enormously if they receive support for self-care. They can live longer, have less pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue, have a better quality of life, and be more active and independent.

Regular reviews

Because MS is a long-term condition, you'll be in regular contact with your healthcare team. A good relationship with the team means that you can easily discuss your symptoms or concerns. The more the team knows, the more they can help you.

Keeping well

Everyone with a long-term condition such as MS is encouraged to get a flu jab each autumn to protect against flu (influenza). It's also recommended that they get an anti-pneumoccocal vaccination. This is a one-off injection that protects against a specific serious chest infection called pneumococcal pneumonia.

Healthy eating and exercise

Regular exercise and a healthy diet are recommended for everyone, not just people with MS. They can help prevent many conditions, including heart disease and many forms of cancer. Try to eat a balanced diet, containing all the food groups, to give your body the nutrition it needs. Exercising regularly can help relieve stress and reduce fatigue.

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Relationships and support hide

Coming to terms with a long-term condition such as MS can put a strain on you, your family and your friends. It can be difficult to talk to people about your condition, even if they're close to you.

Dealing with the deterioration of symptoms, such as increasing difficulty with movement and tremors, can make people with MS very frustrated and depressed. Inevitably, their spouse, partner or carer will feel anxious or frustrated, too.

Be honest about how you feel and let your family and friends know what they can do to help. Don't feel shy about telling them that you need some time to yourself, if that's what you want.

Support
If you have any questions, your GP or MS specialist nurse may be able to reassure you. You may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor or psychologist, or to someone at a specialist helpline. Your GP surgery will have information on these.

Some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have MS, either at a local support group or in an internet chatroom.

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Having a baby show

Fertility

Being diagnosed with MS shouldn't affect your ability to have children. However, some medication that's prescribed for MS may affect fertility in both men and women. If you're considering starting a family, discuss it with your healthcare team, who can offer advice.

Pregnancy

Women with MS can have a normal pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. Some women find that their pregnancy has a positive effect on their MS and they are less likely to have a relapse of symptoms. Women with MS can have a normal birth and breastfeed afterwards.

You may need to continue taking medication throughout your pregnancy. However, some medication shouldn’t be taken during pregnancy, so it's important to discuss this with your healthcare team.

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Money and financial support show

If you have to stop work or work part time because of your MS, you may find it hard to cope financially. You may be entitled to one or more of the following types of financial support:

  • If you have a job but can't work because of your illness, you're entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from your employer.  
  • If you don't have a job and can't work because of your illness, you may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance.  
  • If you're aged 64 or under and need help with personal care or have walking difficulties, you may be eligible for Disability Living Allowance
  • If you're aged 65 or over, you may be able to get Attendance Allowance
  • If you're caring for someone with MS, you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.    
  • You may be eligible for other benefits if you have children living at home or if you have a low household income.

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Driving show

If you've been diagnosed with MS, you must tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and also inform your insurance company.

You won't necessarily have to stop driving. You will be asked to complete a form providing more information about your condition, as well as details of your doctors and specialists. The DVLA will use this to decide whether you are fit to drive.

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Last reviewed: 29/01/2010

Next review due: 29/01/2012

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MS: Jo's story

Jo has multiple sclerosis. Find out how it affects her body, her ability to move around and her family life, and where to find support for MS.

Long-term conditions

Living with a long-term condition, including healthcare, medicines and support.