A week after Selma Blair, the actress, spoke about her condition in Good Morning America and Vanity Fair about her chronic illness which is Multiple Sclerosis, there’s still a lot of talk about her diagnosis and how she struggled to get doctors to take her symptoms seriously. As a health care professional myself, I could only imagine how those previous doctors that saw her feels right now.

She apparently was finally diagnosed in August 2018 after seeing a doctor for what she thought was just a pinch nerve. Someone finally listened to her and ordered to have an MRI done in which doctors found 20 different MS related lesions on her brain.

When Exactly Did Selma Started Having Her MS Symptoms

“I have had symptoms for years”, Selma stated, “but was never taken seriously until I fell down in front of the doctor (Jason Berkley) trying to sort out what I thought was a pinch nerve”.

Since the birth of her son in 2011 she has been having symptoms already which was dismissed as just natural after having a baby. That the crippling fatigue she was experiencing was just a natural phenomenon that every mother experiences, although there were times before that she would pull over and take a nap on her short distance drive home from her son’s school.

“I have probably had this incurable disease for 15 years at least”, she added during her interview on Good Morning America.

What Is Multiple Sclerosis And What Type Of Disease Is It

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) involves an immune -mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS). Our CNS is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

So in Multiple Sclerosis, the immune system causes inflammation that damages myelin which is the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers. It also damages the nerve fibers themselves and the specialized cells that make myelin which causes the messages within the CNS altered or stopped completely.

The damage to the areas of the CNS may produce different neurological symptoms that affects among people with MS depending on the type and severity. The damaged areas in the CNS develop scar tissue thus the name Multiple areas of scarring or Multiple Sclerosis came about.

MS patient having PT

What Are The Symptoms Of Multiple Sclerosis

In Multiple Sclerosis (MS), according to National MS Society, damage to the myelin coating around the nerve fibers in the central nervous system (CNS) and to the nerve fibers themselves interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body. Disrupted nerve signals causes the symptoms of MS, which vary from one person to another and over time for any given individual, depending on where and when the damage occurs.

More Common Symptoms

  • numbness or tingling
  • weakness
  • dizziness and vertigo
  • sexual problems
  • pain
  • emotional changes
  • walking (gait) difficulties
  • spasticity
  • vision problems
  • bladder problems
  • bowel problems
  • cognitive changes
  • depression
  • fatigue

Less Common Symptoms

  • speech problems
  • tremor
  • breathing problems
  • headache
  • swallowing problems
  • seizures
  • itching
  • hearing loss

Secondary And Tertiary Symptoms

The primary symptoms are the direct result of damage to the myelin and nerve fibers in the central nervous system (CNS) and then the secondary are the symptoms that are complications that can be a result of the primary symptoms such as:

  • Urinary tract infections due to bladder dysfunction.
  • Loss of muscle tone, poor postural alignment and trunk control, decreased bone density which could result to increased risk of fracture and shallow inefficient breathing which may all be from inactivity.
  • Pressure sores due to immobility.

Tertiary Symptoms

This are the trickle down effects of the disease, which includes:

  • Social, vocational and psychological complications as one may unable to hold a job due to inability to drive or walk.
  • The stress and strain for dealing with the disease alters social networks and sometimes causes relationships to break.
  • The person affected with MS might withdraw from people due to bladder control issues, tremor and swallowing issues.
  • Depression is very common which may be both primary and a tertiary symptom as it can be caused by the disease process or triggered by the other challenges mentioned above.

Benefits Of Early Diagnosis and Prompt Treatment

Researchers are still uncertain whether MS drugs will change the severity of the disease over the long run, however research suggest two benefits from prompt treatment:

  • Soon after the first symptoms if medicine was taken right away, the symptoms cuts down on how many times it may come back.
  • Over the short term, people who took MS medicines early are less likely to have disability compared with people who don’t take MS medicines.

There’s still no drug or treatment yet that can cure MS. These drugs that are being prescribed for people with MS usually target the over active immune system and has side effects. It is still best to weigh the risks and benefits and to really work with a specialist as one drug may work better than the other or some might have side effects that are easier to live with than another.

The cost of the medicines needs also to be looked into as some medicines are more expensive than the others and some maybe be covered by the insurance company.

Parting Thoughts

An early diagnosis of MS doesn’t mean one’s life is over. There are many medications to reduce or lessen the severity of the symptoms. The goal here is to be aggressive as possible. In the case of Selma Blair who is 46 y.o., she is still young and has the opportunity to do more about it especially with the amount of her support system.

One thing is for sure ‘though, by going public with her diagnosis and her challenges, she may be able to bring some serious attention to this condition. By revealing about the difficulty or her challenges of being diagnosed, she brought out the current serious problem that a lot of patients all over the nation are experiencing with the healthcare system specifically doctors and the issues of hospitals on how they are being run and how the insurance reimbursement works.

There are doctors that does not do thorough assessments and makes quick judgment by superficial appearance by the patient, some are just always rushing and only spends 10-15 minutes of their time to see their patients and there are some who has not had enough experience or training.

Choosing the right doctor is very important. As a nurse who has worked with a lot of doctors, there are a lot of things that are needed to consider in finding out if the doctor that you wish to see is the right one. A doctor that finds the time to listen and discuss things with patients in an elaborate way is one and if the doctor is willing to go above and beyond to find out what’s causing a symptom is another.

Share your thoughts with me. If you have questions and comments please leave them down below.



Reference: National MS Society