Multiple Sclerosis and Palliative Care

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. This includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Multiple sclerosis attacks nerve fibers, as well as the fatty substances around them. The scarring of damaged nerves is called “sclerosis,” which gives MS its name. There are two main forms of the disease. “Relapsing” MS comes and goes in what doctors call “flares.” “Progressive” MS is steadier and gets worse over time. Doctors think the causes of MS are both environmental and genetic. But the true cause is not known.

Understanding Palliative Care

Palliative (pronounced “pal-lee-uh-tiv”) care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. It does this by providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness like multiple sclerosis.

Palliative care is provided by a team of palliative care doctors, nurses, social workers who work together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness. Palliative care works hand-in-hand with all other treatments for the disease.

Symptoms and Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis – How Palliative Care Can Help

MS is unpredictable and hard to diagnose. MS symptoms vary from person to person. And symptoms can change over time. With each flare-up of MS, symptoms may become worse and chronic.

Common symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Vision problems, including blurred vision and eye pain
  • Movements that you cannot control, especially in your legs
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Difficulty walking
  • Depression
  • Bedsores or blood clots for those who are bedridden

While living with multiple sclerosis is a challenge, palliative care can make a big difference. Some palliative care treatments for MS include medications and techniques relieve muscle spasms, calm nerves, ease depression and manage pain. Palliative care teams treat your specific symptoms, whatever they may be.

Experiencing a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can be very shocking. And adjusting to a diagnosis of MS can also be very hard, not only for you but also for your family.

But palliative care specialists are experts in treating the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It is important to remember that your palliative care team is 100 percent there for you and can help support you and your family in many ways. They will help you adjust to your diagnosis. They will help you understand complex medical information. And they will help you match your treatment choices to your personal needs and goals.

The palliative care team is 100 percent there for you. They will help you cope with the very real challenges of multiple sclerosis.

Podcast: Toby’s Multiple Sclerosis Story

How to Get Palliative Care

If you or a loved one is facing MS, ask your doctor for a referral to palliative care—the earlier the better. You can receive palliative care in the hospital, at an outpatient clinic and sometimes at home.

Although living with multiple sclerosis is a difficult journey, palliative care can ease your burden and help you achieve the best possible quality of life. For more information, explore Take the quiz to find out if palliative care is right for you. And find providers in your area by visiting the Palliative Care Provider Directory.