Being attentive to your overall health and choosing healthy lifestyle behaviors will help prevent common health conditions that can make living with MS more difficult. Many people living with MS also live with conditions (comorbidities) like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, lung disease, and certain mood disorders. Some people also live with other autoimmune conditions.
These comorbid conditions can negatively impact MS by delaying diagnosis, delaying treatment with a disease-modifying therapy, increasing the number of hospitalizations, speeding up disease progression and reducing quality of life. Treating these additional medical or psychiatric conditions is essential not only to your overall health and wellbeing, but to the effective management of your MS as well.
Don’t assume that everything is related to your MS
When something changes in your health, it’s tempting to attribute those changes to MS. While that may be true, it may not be. Any persistent change in your health deserves equal investigation— it’s important to discuss any changes with your MS or primary care provider.
Ensure your healthcare providers are communicating
When you are managing more than one disease or condition, it’s important for your healthcare providers to communicate with you and each other. The strategies to manage one condition may not be compatible with your other condition. For example, a medication to treat fatigue may worsen your high blood pressure or the chemotherapy to treat your cancer might interact with the medication you take for your MS.
Keep a list of all medications and supplements you take
Particularly in today’s world of specialized medicine—where each healthcare provider tends to focus on one particular area of your care—it’s important to keep all your providers informed about any treatments you are receiving. This information helps to ensure that you are not given medications that interfere with one another or combine in any harmful way. It’s also a good idea to use one pharmacy or pharmacy chain for as many of your medications as possible since the prescription software used by most pharmacists will automatically identify possible drug interactions.
The same recommendation holds for all over-the-counter products and complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) strategies you are using. Your providers need complete information about everything you are taking in order to make the best and safest possible treatment recommendations for you.
When coordinating your own care gets too complicated, ask for help
When managing your health care begins to feel like a full-time job, or you simply don’t have the energy or ability to manage the numerous providers, tests, appointments, prescriptions, and insurance plans, it may be time to look for some assistance. Call the National MS Society (1-800-344-4867) for information about care management resources.