Advancing MS and Other Complications
Published May 20, 2012
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disease, though the rate of progression differs in each person. As MS becomes more advanced, you will develop a higher risk for certain other conditions and diseases, such as osteoporosis, kidney infections, and pressure sores. Here are some of the key risks you should be aware of:
Advancing MS can make swallowing or coughing difficult. Having trouble swallowing or coughing may cause you to aspirate, or accidentally draw food or drink into your lungs. If food or drink enters your lungs, you may develop aspiration pneumonia.
Signs and symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include: frequent coughing; shortness of breath; noisy breaths; feeling dizzy, faint, or confused; feeling like you cannot fill your lungs with air; and chest pain when you inhale for a deep breath. If you have trouble swallowing or begin experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important you see a doctor. Aspiration pneumonia can be serious and eventually life-threatening if left untreated. It can lead to a lung infection or respiratory failure, which pose even greater threats for a person with MS.
Bladder Control Problems
People with MS frequently experience bladder control problems, or difficulty stopping the follow of urine. This is called urinary incontinence.
If you have a sense of needing to urinate but can't hold it until you reach a toilet; sneeze, cough, or laugh and lose control of your bladder; or otherwise find yourself unable to prevent accidents, talk with your doctor. Though it is common, it is not normal, and it isn't something you have to suffer through silently. Incontinence can be treated -- with medications, minor surgery, or other procedures.
Bladder or Kidney Infections
As your MS advances, your doctor may prescribe the use of a catheter to help empty your bladder. Prolonged use of a catheter can cause a bladder or kidney infection. Women are at a greater risk of developing bladder infections.
If you begin experiencing abdominal pain, burning or pain during urination, or detect foul-smelling urine, make an appointment with your doctor to have your catheter checked. If your bladder is not fully emptying during urination, residual urine may be causing an infection.
People who are unable to perform weight-bearing exercises or have decreased mobility are at a higher risk for osteoporosis, the disease that causes bone deterioration. In addition, corticosteroids, which are often prescribed to patients with MS, can increase bone density loss.
Too often, osteoporosis is unrecognizable until it has progressed far enough to cause a broken or fractured bone. For that reason, it's important you work with your doctor to monitor changes in bone density. Your doctor may request frequent bone-density scans to monitor for osteoporosis or its precursor, osteopenia.
Pressure sores, also called bedsores, are the result of lying in one position for too long. When you remain stationary, pressure from your body begins to cut off blood flow to your skin, fat, and muscles. The skin will begin breaking down, and if left untreated, these sores can begin affecting deep skin layers and may lead to serious infections.
Pressures sores will first appear as overly red or purple areas of skin. Eventually these areas may begin to swell, and blisters may appear. If you notice parts of your body begin to change color, swell, or develop blisters, call your doctor.
- "Living with advanced MS." National Multiple Sclerosis Society. n.d. Web. 3 March 2012. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/living-with-advanced-ms/index.aspx
- Schapiro , RT. "About MS – bladder symptoms." Multiple Sclerosis International Federation. 23 June 2008. Web. 3 March 2012. http://www.msif.org/en/about_ms/ms_by_topic/continence/articles/bladder_symptoms.html
- "Pressure sores." National Multiple Sclerosis Society. n.d. Web. 3 March 2012. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/living-with-advanced-ms/pressure-sores/index.aspx
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