Looking beyond the invisible symptoms on World MS Day

Looking beyond the invisible symptoms on World MS Day

For World MS Day Canadians should take a moment to think about the invisible symptoms of MS

You wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at them, but on average 11 Canadians are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) every day.

For many, early symptoms are nearly invisible – fatigue, weakness, lack of coordination, vision or bladder problems. Symptoms are often overlooked by even those living with early stages of the disease. Symptoms can also be overlooked by unsuspecting friends, family or colleagues, even after diagnosis which, in some cases, can take years.

READ MORE: MS Walk is Canada’s Duty

Today is World MS Day and this year we’re asking Canadians to take a moment to think about the invisible symptoms of MS and the unseen impact MS can have on a person’s quality of life.

Many individuals affected by MS battle invisible symptoms, including challenges with mental health, numbness, dizziness, weather sensitivity, vision loss, debilitating fatigue and more.

Chances are, they are also living with the stigma of having MS symptoms and wrong assumptions about them. They are often mistaken for being lazy, clumsy or even impaired. Just because someone looks okay on the outside doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling on the inside.

MS is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system. One day your body behaves ordinarily, the next it refuses to listen to you.

There’s no warning. There’s no sign that something has changed from one day to the next, making it difficult for people living without the disease to understand swings in a person’s physical or mental health. The unpredictable and episodic yet progressive nature of MS makes it challenging to maintain financial security and navigate health and community support systems including access to treatments, care, and appropriate housing.

Employment is a key factor in maintaining financial security. The average unemployment rate for people living with MS is 60 percent. People with MS want to work and struggle to continue to work, often because of issues related to lack of flexibility and accommodation.

Fortunately, we’ve come a long way in the last 20 years thanks to the generosity of donors who contributed to help fund critical MS research. In 1998, there were only three types of MS treatments available. Today there are 14 disease modifying therapies approved in Canada for people with relapsing forms of MS to consider as part of their treatment and management of MS.

In the 1990s, a woman living with MS (women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with MS than men) would have had no treatment options and been advised not to have a family, not to work or do any strenuous activity.

She would have felt very insecure because her disease was invisible and not understood by employers, and she would have lived in fear of it getting worse and being alone. Today, a woman living with MS has multiple treatment options, may be told it is ok to continue to work and have a family if she chooses. We’ve come a long way in MS awareness and treatment, but we have a long way still to go.

Over 77,000 Canadians are currently living with MS, one of the highest rates in the world. Let’s work collectively to eradicate stigma around MS and make it easier for individuals affected by the disease to share their stories and experiences with the world.

Tania Vrionis is the President, Alberta & Northwest Territories and BC & Yukon Divisions of the MS Society of Canada.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tourists are being asked to postpone their non-essential trips to Tofino as COVID-19 cases rise across Vancouver Island, but at least one accommodation provider is offering conflicting messaging. (Westerly file photo)
Victoria woman says Tofino Airbnb host encouraged travel despite provincial restrictions

“The only way I would get a refund is if she would be able to rebook the suite for that weekend.”

A sign outside Ucluelet’s Blue Room on Monday morning advises patrons that the restaurant has gone back to take-out only. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Some Ucluelet restaurants heading back to take-out only as COVID-19 concerns rise

Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel urges residents to be respectul of business owners’ decisions.

A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation announces lockdown after member tests positive for COVID-19

Essential travel only and restricted to Tofino and Ucluelet.

Tofino Sea Kayaking staff Sable Trafton holds a gift card they are contributing ‘12 Days of Jingle’ draw. One lucky local will has the chance to win $500 worth of gift cards to local merchants. (TLCC photo)
Tofino’s 12 Days of Jingle kicks off holiday season

“We wanted to do it early so people could make purchases and send them wherever they need to go.”

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Parksville’s French Creek Harbour experienced a diesel spill on Nov. 23 after a barge and fishing vessel collided. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Coast Guard cleans up diesel spill in Parksville’s French Creek Harbour

Barge carrying fuel truck collides with fishing vessel

Stock photo
Senior from Gibsons caught viewing child porn sentenced to 10 months

74-year-old pleaded guilty after police seized 1,500-2,500 images

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Most Read