Move it for MS

Myelin

At St Neots Hospital we are supporting MS Awareness Week by participating in the ‘Move it for MS’ initiative and encouraging everyone to get moving! This has seen us getting out into the fresh air with our patients and enjoying a lunchtime keep fit session within our boardroom.

Around 1 in 600 people in the United Kingdom are diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with women three times more likely to receive this diagnosis than men.  MS is a condition that affects your brain and spinal cord. In MS, the coating that protects your nerves (myelin) is damaged, causing a range of symptoms.  A substance called myelin protects the nerve fibres in the central nervous system, helping messages travel quickly and smoothly between the brain and the rest of the body.  In MS, your immune system, which normally helps to fight off infections, mistakes myelin for a foreign body and attacks it. This damages the myelin and strips it of the nerve fibres, either slightly, or completely, leaving scars known as lesions or plaques.  This damage disrupts the messages travelling along the nerve fibres and as a result they can slow down, become distorted, or not get through at all.  As well as losing the myelin, there can sometimes be damage to the actual nerve fibres too. It’s this nerve damage that causes the increase in disability that can occur over time.

There is no single known cause of MS. Research has begun to develop our understanding of what can make it more likely that you will develop MS, such as infections, particularly the Epstein Barr virus, lack of vitamin D from the glorious British sunshine, diet and lifestyle choices such as smoking and obesity.  Ongoing research continues, in the hope of understanding more about how MS is caused. Symptoms can vary from person to person, but include fatigue, which is often described as beyond exhausted, pain, impacting on mobility, affecting vision, ability to talk and swallow and also expressions of feeling numbness and tingling in your body.  People often find that they have to adapt the way they undertake everyday activities as their symptoms progress.  Although no specific diet is recommended, it is suggested that a healthy balanced diet will help with reducing fatigue and general health wellbeing, and regular exercise can support improvement in overall strength and mobility.

One of our patients, Stephanie, describes how having MS has impacted on her life.

“I was diagnosed with MS when I was 34 years old.  It has affected my mobility and I can’t walk well, using a frame and a wheelchair sometimes.  I am also incontinent at times and have to wear pads.  It has affected my mood. When I can’t walk I feel a failure, as if I am not reaching the expectations of other people and my own.  This makes me feel low.  I already suffered with other mental health problems. I have a diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder, schizoaffective disorder and complete PTSD, but it does still impact on my mood.  Getting help was a life saver.  Being diagnosed gutted me as there is no cure.  Having help has made life more bearable, with the aids of sticks and the support of staff I am still able to access the community.  I also get moral support and someone to talk to.”

If you would like to know more about Multiple Sclerosis, you can visit the MS Society website here.

– Louise Smith, St Neots Hospital Director

St Neots provides assessment, treatment, rehabilitation and complex care for both male and female patients suffering from a broad range of neurological conditions e.g. Huntington’s disease, an acquired or traumatic brain injury, frontotemporal dementia or functional disorders and is provided by a highly experienced team based on site.
To make a referral, please email Natalie Dilks, Referral Manager St Neots Hospital.