We debunk common misconceptions about this central nervous system disease
Medical discoveries happen so fast that it’s easy to understand how some people don’t have time to stay on top of the latest news and might still believe outdated myths and misconceptions about multiple sclerosis. We debunk five of the most common MS myths.
Myth 1: People with multiple sclerosis shouldn’t exercise.
There was a time when everyone—experts and people with MS alike—believed physical activity would make the disease worse. Doctors advised against an active lifestyle and families kept their loved ones sheltered indoors. Now we know better. In fact, research shows it’s actually better for you to keep it moving. Being active may even ease some symptoms of MS and help you stay mobile longer than if you’re largely sedentary. Choose activities you enjoy and do them most days of the week.
Myth 2: Women with MS can’t (or shouldn’t) get pregnant.
Three times more women develop MS than men, most often during their childbearing years. Imagine how unfair it would be to say to these women that they should pack up their ovaries and go home. Experts say women with multiple sclerosis can get pregnant and might even find some of their MS symptoms disappear during pregnancy. Singer Tamia says this is what she experienced while she was pregnant. If you want to have a baby, but you’ve been diagnosed with MS, know this: There is no research that links a mom’s MS with a negative outcome for the baby. Just talk with your doctor about your medications and the possibility of a relapse within three months after childbirth.
Myth 3: Multiple sclerosis is contagious.
Some people are under the misconception that MS is catching, like that stomach virus that laid your entire family low last Thanksgiving. But scientists have tried—and failed—to transmit the disease in the lab to research animals, so the likelihood of it spreading in your home or community is pretty remote.
Myth 4: Multiple sclerosis doesn’t cause pain.
Though there are still some health-care providers who don’t include pain on the list of MS symptoms, people who have it will tell you different. And if you need the science to back up the folks who should know, here it is: Research published a year ago in the Journal of Neurology found that people with multiple sclerosis can suffer with long-term chronic pain.
Myth 5: Multiple sclerosis always causes permanent disability.
It’s difficult to predict the degree of disability MS will cause for any one person. Today’s medications slow disease progression for many sufferers. Add a variety of mobility aids and physical therapy to your arsenal, and the words “permanent disability” might have to be banned from your vocabulary. You may learn what many others with this disease know: Sometimes you might need your walker or cane, and some days you can dance circles around your non-MS friends.
Send us pictures of you living with MS and help us bury these myths!