Christina Applegate’s early MS symptoms made it clear that the disease could be mistaken for everyday aches and pains. Here’s what you need to know

It’s easy to shrug off a little numbness in your hands or loss of balance here and there. Unfortunately, as actress Christina Applegate learned in 2021, those usually not worrisome symptoms can sometimes be a sign of something more serious. Applegate was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) during filming of the third — and final — season of the show. Netflix Shows Dead for me.

Although MS was the first was defined by a neurologist in 1868, the medical community still does not know what causes it. The disease affects the central nervous system – the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Think of it as the electrical wiring that runs throughout the body and controls movement, thoughts, mood, and basically everything a person thinks or does throughout their day. Effects on the nervous system can lead to both short-term and long-term symptoms. Each attack on the nervous system leaves behind damage that together tell the story of MS in a person’s body. One isolated symptom does not tell the story of MS. It takes many injuries to lead to a diagnosis.

Michelle Tolson understand how overwhelming the words “You have multiple sclerosis” can be. A dance educator and former Rockette at Radio City Music Hall, Tolson was diagnosed in 2014 when she was 40 years old. She had blurred vision in her left eye so she decided to see a doctor. “I think I have to increase my prescription for my reading glasses. It’s so strange. I liken it to the glare of a disco ball,” Tolson said.

Tolson’s doctor said her eyes were fine but sent her to a specialist when the condition persisted. He sent her for an MRI to see if perhaps her optic nerve was inflamed. At 5 p.m. the following Friday, Tolson was preparing to go to a wedding reception when he received a call. “I probably have MS because they found the lesions,” she said.

And those lesions make it clear that Tolson may have had MS for a decade. Yet, she said, many of her symptoms were masked as things that dancers go through or that happen as a person gets older.

MS symptoms are not specific to that condition. “If you have numbness and tingling, maybe in your hands, maybe in your arms or legs or in your face, that’s just a nuisance. Maybe it’s the new yoga poses I’m trying out. Maybe the new office chair I’m sitting in is causing a tingling sensation down my legs,” said Julie Fiol, registered nurse and vice president of clinical strategy and innovation for the National MS Society. know.

Other common symptoms include depression, cognitive changes, fatigue, difficulty walking, muscle spasms, vision problems, dizziness, weakness, pain and itching, mood changes, and Intestinal problems.

The timeline between symptoms and diagnosis can vary widely. The quickest route to diagnosis is with an MRI, but it requires the doctor to believe that a person’s symptoms may lead to something more than everyday complaints. With research coming out in recent years on how women And people of color is often overlooked by doctors, which is a big problem when diagnosing MS. For every man diagnosed with the disease, there are three women who have to learn to live with it. And, although Fiol says the medical community mistakenly believed it primarily affected white people, it is now clear that it occurs equally in both whites and blacks.

“There’s a lot written off the symptoms. Hysterical woman. Is this hormonal? You can’t handle the stress of being a new mom or the stress of your career, Fiol says. “People feel as if they don’t exist watched.”

Tolson was lucky in that respect. Her doctors acted quickly. But the initial diagnosis made her “very sad because MS was almost like, before I knew it, I was going to be in a wheelchair. That’s how MS usually looks. And as a professional dancer and an educator, I thought I would lose everything I had worked for my whole life.”

As she learned MS has more than one face, research and treatment have advanced far beyond what she knew about the disease.

How does MS progress?

Because there is four different types of MS—each type has its own flare and progression—there is no single path for those diagnosed with the disease. And the faster people are diagnosed, the better the chance that medical intervention can help stop progression.

“Each person has a different level of disability,” said Nicole Lemelle, a writer and MS patient advocate, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2000 when she was 25 years old. “But the majority of people with MS have disabilities or vague symptoms that never reach severe levels.”

No matter how the disease presents, Lemelle says it’s essential for all people with MS to take control of their own care. “Don’t let the neurologist make decisions for you. Do your homework and come to each appointment with questions. And expect answers. If you are not satisfied with the treatment you are receiving, find another doctor. You may have to go through a few things before you find the right person.”

Like Tolson, Lemelle was diagnosed after experiencing vision problems. Her symptoms remained relatively mild over the years, mainly fatigue and a slight limp. But at the age of 9, she experienced a severe flare-up that landed her in the hospital. “I had to learn how to eat, talk and walk. When I finally returned home, I was still in a wheelchair. I have never recovered my ability to walk.”

Now an advocate for others living with MS, Lemelle is also Blogging to help The loved ones of MS patients understand what they are going through. “MS can be a lonely and isolating disease,” she said. But with the attention that Christina Applegate and advocates like Lemelle and Tolson are giving to the disease, hopefully people can get diagnosed and build their support systems much faster.

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