Mike from the MS community: I’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, what type of healthcare professional should I expect to come across?
Sally Fox, MS Specialist Nurse: Well, in your team you’ll have a combination of disciplines. Obviously one of your principal ones is going to be your consultant neurologist who will be responsible for actually making that diagnosis and for prescribing any disease modifying therapies or, to an extent, things for symptom management.
You’ll also have the MS nurse, and the MS nurse is going to cover a variety of topics with you, and that can be from adjustment to the diagnosis, which can obviously be, you know, quite a mental leap for a lot of people, to symptom management on an ongoing basis.
We can go through all the disease modifying therapy options with you if that’s appropriate and help you to come to a decision. We couldn’t make decisions on your behalf, but we can help you through that process. We can also refer you on to other healthcare professionals.
So, common ones that we would refer to would be things like a specialist physiotherapist, a specialist occupational therapist who can help you with adaptations if you require, sometimes occupational issues an occupational therapist can help you with.
For some people speech and language can become an issue, so we can refer you on to those kind of people. For some people if they’ve had a spinal relapse and their bladder and bowels are affected, we can refer you on to the continence team. So lots of different professionals coming together to provide you with, you know, hopefully the maximum service.
Mike: So I suppose if you have just been recently diagnosed with MS, it can be quite a scary prospect to think about some of the people you’ve mentioned there. I guess it’s important to state that this is a process where you would be referred to where your requirements are there and it’s not a kind of, you have to go and speak to all of these people.
Sally Fox: No, no, absolutely not. And everybody makes that adjustment to diagnosis at their own pace. And obviously everybody’s needs are different and I think there’s a lot of fear probably among a lot of the people I speak to at that initial diagnosis, because I think a lot of the people with MS who are very visible are the ones that maybe require more adaptations and people in their own mind think well, is that going to be my story, and that is very often not the case.
But those people, you know, you might not even realise that they have MS, so they’re invisible to you. So it’s hopefully helping to make the diagnosis less scary and to provide you with the support. And also help you deal with the unknown aspect of it, because I think that’s one of the most difficult aspects of an MS diagnosis, we can’t say well, this is going to happen at this point, and this and this, you know, to an extent we have to see how your disease is going to behave.
Mike: Someone gets diagnosed with MS and probably the first question that goes through their head is, well how long is it until I have to go and start speaking to the wheelchair people.
Sally Fox: Yeah, exactly.
Sally Fox: For most people, the answer to that question is, probably never. So there’s an awful lot. It’s a very exciting time as well, I think, in the multiple sclerosis world, because we’ve got such a proliferation of treatments coming on board.
And excitingly now, we’re just starting to see those breakthroughs for people with progressive MS. So hopefully, you know, for everybody across the board, the treatment options are going to continue to increase.