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Managing fatigue

Posted on: November 28 2018

In this blog, our MS-UK Helpline take a look at fatigue...

Fatigue cover.png

Our Choices leaflets are available online

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and it can often feel overwhelming during the cold and dark winter months. However, with the help of the MS community, we’ve gathered together a few tips and techniques that may help you through!  

Firstly, though it may seem counter-intuitive, moderate exercise has been shown to improve resistance to fatigue. Now, we are by no means suggesting that you run a marathon, but a small amount of regular walking, swimming, or yoga, among many other options, could make a positive difference in the longer term. For more information on exercise, please see our Choices leaflet.

Looking after your mental wellbeing is also important. Activities like meditation, mindfulness and relaxation, as well as just being aware of the need to factor in time for rest, are tips that the MS community have shared with us in relation to managing symptoms. This self-aware approach is particularly useful when it comes to fatigue because taking the time to plan activities and daily patterns, as well as breaking down tasks into manageable chunks, can really make things less daunting on a day-to-day basis.

It may seem like a bit of cliché, but we can hardly talk about the usefulness of exercise without also talking about healthy eating. It is well known that eating a balanced diet helps people to maintain good health and feel their best, while poor diet can lead to fatigue. This is no less true when it comes to MS. Supplements, including B12, Co-enzyme Q10, Vitamin D and Omega 3, can also contribute to reducing fatigue, though we suggest speaking to your GP or neurologist before taking anything new. For more information, please see our Choices leaflets on Diet and nutrition and Vitamin D.

Other therapies that some people with MS have found to be helpful include acupuncture, oxygen therapy, and Action Potential Simulation (APS) therapy. Oxygen therapy is widely used across the UK in the many MS therapy centres and those who regularly attend sessions have found that it can greatly improve fatigue levels. To find your nearest therapy centre, use our website.

You can read and download all of our Choices leaflets on our website

Brrrrr…Our 10 top tips for dealing with the cold

Posted on: November 06 2018

The MS-UK Helpline shares some top tips for dealing with the wintry weather...Winter top tips graphic image

It feels a little that people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to the weather. After the extremely hot summer we’ve just experienced, many people had issues with the heat, and now winter is just around the corner bringing problems and anxieties of its own.

MS symptoms can be exacerbated as the temperature drops. It is not known exactly why the cold has a negative effect on people with MS symptoms. Some of the symptoms that can be exacerbated by the cold weather are:

  • Increased stiffness and issues with spasticity
  • Higher fatigue levels
  • Increased and unpredictable bladder urgency
  • A worsening of perceived pain
  • Problems with sensory issues, particularly in the extremities

One additional issue may be the shorter days and not being exposed to as much direct sunlight, therefore not getting as much natural vitamin D as in summer months. The lack of sunlight, the shortening of the days and the difficulties getting out and about can also be contributing factors towards negative mental health with potentially worsening anxiety and depression.

Like many other aspects of living with MS, a little planning and forethought can go a long way when coping with activities in the winter.

Top tips...

  1. If your spasticity and stiffness increases in the cold, it is worth speaking to your MS team. There may be medications that you can take or if you are already using drugs the clinicians may suggest changes to dosage. There are also things you can do at home to help with stiffness, like stretching exercises, yoga or Pilates
  2. Wear layers. The thermal insulation of layers can make sure your core stays warm. We suggest choosing easy to remove clothes, as if you begin to overheated you can shed a layer or two.
  3. Make sure all your equipment and aids are well serviced and ready for the winter. Whether that is a car, a mobility scooter or walking aids, it is a good idea to get them checked out. This may involve lubricating moving parts, checking tyre pressures and ensuring brakes are up to the job. Some people even choose to switch their walking sticks over for Nordic walking poles or something similar with a wider ground surface area. You can also buy ‘ice tips’ to customise your existing walking aid
  4. Drink plenty of hot drinks. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate or whichever is your drink of choice can help you stay warm from the inside, warming your core quickly. It can also help keep your fingers and hands warm whilst you cradle your favourite mug
  5. Keeping your hands and feet warm is really important. Some people with MS have sensory issues or also have a condition called Raynaud's phenomenon, in which the extremities (particularly the fingers and toes) are affected by the cold. Fingers and toes can become bluish looking and be very painful. It is a good idea to plan ahead and get some good thermal socks and gloves and consider keeping your warm socks on even whilst at home. You can also purchase hand warmers of various kinds from outdoor stores
  6. Consider increasing your uptake of vitamin D and make the most of what little sunshine there is. Try to go outside as close to midday as you can and expose as much of your skin as is possible (given the cold!) to the sun. Not only will this help your vitamin D levels but being outside and enjoying the autumnal colours or crisp Jack Frost touched plants will likely be good for your mental health too. If you feel you need to increase your Vitamin D supplements during the winter it is worth reading our Choices leaflet on the subject and speaking to your MS team
  7. Plan for adverse weather. If you have a care package you can speak with your care manager to ensure you have an understanding of any kind of contingencies or emergency plans that are in place in case of adverse weather conditions. It is a good idea to contact your local Adult Social Care department to find out if there are any special plans in place for extreme weather in your area. If you have a family carer or have caring responsibilities yourself, it would be a good idea to get an updated ‘carers emergency plan’ (usually part of a carers assessment)
  8. If you rely on meal on wheels or home delivered meals it is a good idea to do some contingency planning for the possibility that a delivery will not get through. It is always a good idea to have some tins of soup or other non-perishable foods in the cupboards. If you have room in your freezer it is worth making sure there are a few easy meals stored away in there too
  9. Be mindful of colds and your health. If you feel you are becoming poorly, speak to your pharmacist or GP as early intervention is best for managing health. Remember that you are entitled to the flu vaccine from the NHS. You can get this at your GP practice or your local pharmacist
  10. The UK government have produced a leaflet called ‘Keep warm, keep well’ specifically aimed at older and disabled people which is full of useful information about the winter fuel payment, the cold weather payment, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), the warm home discount scheme and other sources of financial help. The Energy Saving Trust has good advice on how to lower your bills and make your property more energy efficient. They can also advise on grants and schemes available around the UK. They have a helpline you can call on 0300 123 1234

If you want to chat about any aspects of living with multiple sclerosis, the MS-UK Helpline team are here to help. Just call us on 0800 783 0518, email us or use our live web chat service to get in touch.

New Pathways sneak peak: mindfulness, being a carer with MS, mobility and more...

Posted on: October 20 2018

Front cover image of New PathwaysHello,

I am thrilled to share a sneak peak into the latest issue of New Pathways magazine, which is out now!

Our cover star this issue is MSer and HR Specialist Rebecca Armstrong, who discusses being your own boss and taking a step into self-employment on page 16. 

On page 24-25, wellness coach and Director of Work.Live.Thrive Zoe Flint discusses how relaxation can help boost your immune and central nervous systems. This feature all about mindfulness for MS shares Zoe's insights and her top 5 things to get your started. 

Also, MSer and Feature Writer Ian Cook reveals his first-hand experience of becoming a carer. Ian says, 'It may sound strange to say this but I believe being disabled is, in many ways, the perfect qualification to care for another disabled person.' Read the full article on page 12, and don't forget to check out his 'revisited' article on page 42 all about Shopmobility. 

Fats have once again been dominating the news of late, so we asked MSer and Nutritional Science Researcher Sharon Peck to reveal the truth and explain what we really need to know on page 19. We also take a look at the natural remedies lurking in the back of your kitchen cupboard that could help relieve MS symptoms on page 18.

If you would like to see something specific in New Pathways please email me and let me know your thoughts or feedback. 

Enjoy reading!

Sarah-Jane

Editor, New Pathways

New Pathways issue 110 - The Editor's Letter

Posted on: August 01 2018

Hello!Issue 110 Front Cover of New Pathways

This issue of New Pathways magazine is jam packed full of a variety of news, features and real life stories. Start your read by catching up on all the latest developments in MS on pages 4-10. Then why not discover nine anti-inflammatory foods that could benefit your diet and MS on page 34.

Next we take a look at how a condition that predominantly affects women, actually impacts men on page 12. And on pages 30 and 32 MSer and feature writer Ian Cook revisits Access to Work and gives electric wheelchairs a spin.

Stem cells research and personal stories are still dominating the news, so we thought we would produce an update on this ever popular treatment option on page 24.

Also in this issue, MSer and HR Specialist Rebecca Armstrong explains how to get the best out of occupational health on page 16, we take a look at the therapeutic benefits of horse therapy on page 18, and Rosalind Barton reveals the highlights of her surprisingly accessible trip to Singapore.

Subscribe today to read all this and much more!

Sarah-Jane

Editor, New Pathways

Professor’s hypothesis for MS cure gives people false hope

Posted on: July 25 2018

sarah-jane-300.jpgNow that I’ve got your attention I should apologise to Professor John Paul Leach, consultant neurologist at the University of Glasgow because the headline of this story isn’t entirely true. Unfortunately, all he is guilty of is doing his job and have a hypothesis for something we all want for multiple sclerosis (MS) – a cure.

Professor Leach has hypothesised that MS is caused by three-hits, strictly in order, in genetically susceptible persons. His three-tiered hypothesis is as follows:

  1. A clinic-epidemiological model of MS as a rare late complication of two sequential infections (with the temporal sequence of infections being important)

  2. A proposal that the first event is helminthic infection with Enterobius Vermicularis (threadworm), and the second is Epstein Barr Virus infection

  3. A proposal for a testable biological mechanism, involving T-Cell exhaustion for Epstein Barr virus protein LMP2A.

The professor and his team believe that this model satisfies some of the as-yet unexplained features of MS epidemiology, is consistent with the clinical and neuropathological features of the disease and is potentially testable by experiment.

Put simply it is thought that MS develops when a susceptible person contracts two separate common infections, threadworm and the Epstein Barr Virus, which cause the body to attack itself. Doctor’s now believe that if this in fact is the case, a vaccine for one of the conditions, such as the Epstein Barr Virus could be created to prevent future people developing the condition. 

Some of the main news outlets have sensationalised this story. Yes this is an exciting hypothesis, but if we will have to sit back and let the experts conducted experiments and clinical trials before we find out if this is truly an option for the future.

Professor Leach’s hypothesis was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis & Related Disorders.

Blog by Sarah-Jane, Editor of New Pathways Magazine
 

Subscribe to New Pathways

 

The ‘miracle’ cell – Can stem cell transplantation help tackle MS?

Posted on: May 23 2018

Stem Cell Research.pngWith the glamour surrounding 'miraculous' stem cells which, to echo the words of TV talent show hosts can be whatever they want to be, you'd assume that the science has been around for decades. In reality, scientists only first learned how to grow human stem cells in 1998 after years of trialling the process with mice. It wasn't until 2006 that these scientists managed to find the right conditions to 'reprogram' adult cells into a stem cell-like state.

Stem cell research has been of a particular interest among the multiple sclerosis community due to the ability of a stem cell to regenerate and repair damaged cells. Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) in particular has often graced the news pages as a potential 'miracle' treatment for those with MS. But what is HSCT and how does it work?

Even though we're not medical experts at MS-UK, we are honest and unbiased. So when Professor Gavin Giovannoni from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry published a wonderfully candid blog about what HSCT treatment entails, we thought it was important to share.

In Professor Giovannoni's fascinating ‘What is HSCT?’ post on the BartsMS Blog, he not only explains the different variations of the treatment and why some are more effective than others, he also describes the process in detail from beginning to end. It's a crucial read for anyone thinking about pursuing HSCT to treat MS.

HSCT treatment comes with risks and isn't cheap. It doesn’t work for everyone and there are no clear-cut answers regarding how long any benefits will last. Ex BBC war correspondent Caroline Wyatt flew to Mexico in January 2017 to have HSCT treatment and, a year later, wrote about her experience. Visit ‘How I'm feeling after my MS ‘body reboot’ to find out whether she has noticed any benefits.

HSCT support

If you are looking for more information or support surrounding HSCT, there are plenty of Facebook communities that may be able to help...

 

Guest blog: Working together to improve MS healthcare: including the voice of people with MS

Posted on: March 30 2018

Dawn Langdon, Professor of Neuropsychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Co-Chair of MS in the 21st Century reveals how you can help...

Most people with MS recognise the expertise of their doctors and nurses, but somehow feel that there doesn’t seem to be enough time to cover all the things that matter to them and sometimes important things get missed. A group of people with MS and healthcare professionals are working together to improve clinic visits.

The group is called MS in the 21st Century. Many countries are represented and we learn from each other. We meet up a few times a year. We work to improve MS health care by understanding each other’s priorities and modelling partnership between people with MS and health professionals.Photo of Dawn Langdon

We have recently published a paper in a scientific journal which includes authors who have MS and also authors who are health professionals. This is a ground breaking project. The authors have discussed the priorities they have in an MS clinic visit and agreed a list of unmet needs from the viewpoints of both people with MS and health professionals. We have developed the paper jointly. As well as highlighting our different perspectives, we have also made practical recommendations. Our aim is to bridge the gaps between what people with MS and health professionals expect and provide.

We hope that the publication of this paper will be a key step towards ensuring that MS care addresses the expectations, priorities and needs of people with MS. It is vital that we work together to support people with MS to be fully engaged in managing their own condition. The paper emphasises the perspective of people with MS and how essential their involvement is in high-quality MS care.

From my own work as a neuropsychologist, I am particularly concerned to increase understanding of the psychological impact of MS, including cognition, mental health and wellbeing. We need to increase awareness of how these impacts can be recognised and successfully addressed.

Birgit Bauer, another author and a person with MS says, ‘As a person with MS, I cannot overstate the significance of this publication. I am hopeful patients everywhere and their healthcare teams will recognise the need for better communication and partnership with the ultimate goal of more effective and personalised care.’

"Unmet needs, burden of treatment, and patient engagement in multiple sclerosis: a combined perspective from the MS in the 21st Century Steering Group" is published in the peer reviewed journal, Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders (MSARD), and is freely available online now. DOI: 10.1016/j.msard.2017.11.013

Want to get involved?

If you are a person with MS, or are close to someone who has MS, and you are interested to help Professor Dawn Langdon’s team in their work on psychological aspects of MS, please email d.langdon@rhul.ac.uk.

HSCT the truth

Posted on: March 29 2018

On 19 March, BBC Breakfast featured a short piece on a HSCT trial with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients taking place in Sheffield. It provoked a strong reaction from the MS community and a lot of questions, so we’ve tried to answer some of them…SJL.png

What is it and how does it work?
A variety of clinics and hospitals across the world, including Sheffield and London are trialling and practicing HSCT treatment.

This particular Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) trial, which has been taking place in Sheffield, America, Sweden and Brazil, involves the patient having stem cells extracted from their bone marrow. Next they are given chemotherapy treatment, which strips back their immune system to almost that of a baby and then the healthy stem cells are transplanted back into their body.

The trial was set up to test the efficacy of HSCT treatment versus FDA approved MS drugs, such as interferon, glatiramer acetate, mitoxantrone, natalizumab, fingolimod, or tecfidera.

The findings
Just over 100 patients have taken part in the trial, in hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Uppsala in Sweden and Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Scientists conducting the research claim they have made a significant breakthrough with this type of treatment in patients with highly active relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).

Patients received either HSCT or drug treatment. After one year, only one relapse occurred among the stem cell group compared with 39 in the drug group.

After an average follow-up of three years, the transplants had failed in three out of 52 patients (6%), compared with 30 of 50 (60%) in the control group.

Those in the transplant group experienced a reduction in disability, whereas symptoms worsened in the drug group.

The interim results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.

Click here to read the study’s abstract - Hematopoietic Stem Cell Therapy for Patients With Inflammatory Multiple Sclerosis Failing Alternate Approved Therapy: A Randomized Study.

What is the inclusion criteria?
Participants have to be aged 18-55 and have a clinically defined MS diagnosis using the revised McDonald criteria.

Their Expanded Disability Status Score (EDSS) should be 2.0 to 6.0.

The must show inflammatory disease despite treatment with standard disease modifying therapy, including at least six months of interferon or copaxone.

Inflammatory disease is defined based on both MRI (gadolinium enhancing lesions) and clinical activity (acute relapses *treated with IV or oral high dose corticosteroids and prescribed by a neurologist). Minimum disease activity required for failure is defined as: a) two or more *steroid treated clinical relapses with documented new objective signs on neurological examination documented by a neurologist within the year prior to the study, or b) one *steroid treated clinical relapse within the year prior to study and evidence on MRI of active inflammation (i.e., gadolinium enhancement) within the last 12 months on an occasion separate from the clinical relapse (three months before or after the clinical relapse).

A steroid treated relapse will include a relapse that was severe enough to justify treatment but due to patient intolerance of steroids, or a history of non-response to steroids, they were offered but not used.

More information about inclusion and exclusion criteria can be found here.

Can I get on the trial?

Unfortunately you cannot. This is because although the trial is still active they are not recruiting.

Will it really be available on the NHS within a few months?
Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the MS Society, said the stem cell transplant HSCT "will soon be recognised as an established treatment in England”, but will it?
While this is a phase III trial testing the efficacy of the HSCT, which will be incredibly significant when it comes to gaining licensing approval, the treatment has only been formally assessed for use in the NHS within clinical trials.

There will also be a few more hoops to jump through, such as gaining approval from NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). Although NICE does now have a fast track criteria, which enables certain drugs and treatments with the right evidence to pass through the system much quicker than we have seen in the past. Cost will almost definitely be a deciding factor. HSCT comes with a price tag of £30,000, but there are already some approved DMTs with a similar costing available to patients, so this could help justify the expenditure, especially if the treatment can halt the MS for a long period of time. We should also be mindful that a higher price point can often lead to drugs and treatments being allocated to minorities with strict criteria, rather than being rolled out for everyone.

When does the trial end?
The trial is still ongoing and its estimated end date is December 2018.

Is it really a “game changer”?
Well, it’s a great step forward for people with RRMS and it does mean there is a potential highly-successful treatment that could halt MS in its tracks on the horizon.
However, HSCT treatment in secondary and primary progressive patients doesn’t tend to be as effective and you tend to see less improvement in disability because the nerve damage by this point has become permanent.

There are still a number of questions we do not have the answer to, such as how long does the treatment last?

But maybe the biggest questions of all is if MS is genetic, the person will still have the same gene and what’s to stop the gene being triggered again and the MS returning if we do not know the true cause?

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