Multiple sclerosis is an illness subject to many myths that turn out to be misconceptions believed by far too many. When you scratch the surface, you find stubborn tales that create unnecessary anxiety and sleepless nights for those living with the illness.
So let’s just throw some of the many misconceptions out the door, shall we?
- Why is your MS not like my mine?
Finding two people who are exactly alike in their MS narrative – symptoms, treatment plan and their prognosis – is very difficult to find. MS affects different people in different ways as there is no standard list of symptoms. Comparing people with MS is unhealthy as it creates many misconceptions.
- My dental fillings gave me MS
There is no scientific evidence to show that amalgam fillings and heavy metal poisoning cause or worsen MS. The amount of metal in dental fillings is so low it doesn’t lead to heavy metal poisoning. While HMP can lead to nerve damage, the development and symptoms are different from what happens in MS.
- MS and pregnancy don’t go hand in hand
Scientific research shows that MS symptoms decrease during pregnancy. Many people, however (including myself), still believe that having children means they will have a higher chance of having MS also. In fact, only a small percentage of children will be diagnosed, but many will lead a fulfilling life.
- Nobody in my family has MS, so there is no chance I can have MS myself
Wrong! Yours truly, Miss DSF, Delightfully Sarcastic Female, is living proof that MS has to start somewhere on the family tree. Sadly, it happened to be mine, and myself. It’s not a direct hereditary illness, but there are some genetic factors involved (having a parent with MS marginally increases a child’s risk). With the cause of MS still unknown, it’s a waiting game. Environmental and viral triggers as Epstein-Barr virus (glandular fever) is being looked at also.
- MS doesn’t cause any pain
Oh dear! Anyone who dares telling me that chronic pain is all in my head will forcefully be put in my worst and most painful shoes. Not for just a day, but for a month. The no-pain myth was a century old one that has slowly but surely been turned around. It’s now a well-known fact that PwMS do feel different, very strong kinds of pain. There are three main categories of pain: neuropathic, musculoskeletal and paroxysmal, with more types of pain in each category. For more on the different kinds of pain and what they entail, please click here.
- There is only one road after your diagnosis, the road of the wheelchair
About 25% of people diagnosed with relapsing/remitting MS might need a wheelchair at some stage in their life. This, however, means that 75% of people remain mobile, perhaps helped by a walking stick but not necessarily by wheelchairs. Focus on the 75% instead of the 25% when you’re afraid of what the future might bring.
- I’m too young to have an MS diagnosis
Another myth or misconception is thinking that only elderly people can get MS. With new and better imaging technology that was the case ten years ago, people are getting diagnosed younger and younger. Younger people have a tendency to adapt quickly to treatment, which means that they will have a good quality of life as they grow older.
- MS is contagious
MS is not something you can catch from someone with MS. There is no transfer of airborne bacteria or viruses, and neither can it be transferred via body fluids.
- MS means you’re terminally ill
MS doesn’t kill you directly, and even though it might somethings get you down, but medically speaking, MS is not a death sentence. People with MS pass away from similar illnesses like healthy people, and more people now have access to newer, better fitting disease-modifying treatments. When people with advanced MS can avoid infection, breathing and/or heart problems, life expectancy can almost be similar to healthy people.
- MS symptoms are physical only
Another no-brainer that should be highlighted much more. PwMS can have cognitive issues like memory, problems talking, short attention span, concentration issues etc. Approximately 65% of those living with MS, will experience some form of cognitive issues at some stage in their life. Other symptoms can be of a sensory, mental or sexual nature also.
Updated: June 6th, 2018
© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.