MS Awareness Month

May 21, 2019

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

"How was your band trip?" "We were on that grass stuff." "You played outside?" "No, it was inside, you know, fake grass." "So, you played inside but on AstroTurf?" "Yeah." "What did you play?" "Soccer and ultimate frisbee" "So you didn't play your clarinet on the fake grass?" "No. That's stupid!" That was actually a pretty good conversation with Eric. He used full words and sentences even though we were obviously not talking about the same thing. I would describe my communications with my teenager as delayed, garbled or often missing altogether. But his description of the band trip was better than when I texted him during the bus ride home from Moose Jaw. "Where r u now? When back in Dauphin?" All I got was three letters. "IDK".

When your body feels like it's not communicating well with your brain, it could be a disease of the nervous system. The most common neurological disorder in young adults is Multiple Sclerosis. Every day, three more people in Canada are diagnosed with MS. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Canadians have Multiple Sclerosis. Women are more than three times as likely to develop MS as men. MS can cause loss of balance, impaired speech, extreme fatigue, double vision and paralysis.

May is Multiple Sclerosis awareness month. What is MS or multiple sclerosis? It is an unpredictable and often debilitating disease of the brain and spinal cord. Some of the long nerves in the brain and spinal cord have a covering called myelin. Myelin works a like the plastic covering around a telephone cord. Without the insulating plastic cover, some of the signal that goes down the telephone wire would leak out. The voice on the phone would sound delayed, weakened, garbled or possibly not there at all. In MS, the body mistakenly attacks the insulating myelin sheath around some of the nerve fibers. The signals from the brain to the body or body back to the brain get weaker, delayed, garbled or go missing altogether.

Since MS affects some myelin covers some of the time, this leads to one of the most fascinating and frustrating facets of the disease. The symptoms of MS change and are unpredictable. The most common form of MS, relapsing and remitting MS, has well defined attacks followed by complete or partial recovery. It can go away and come back. And it can affect vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. And this is not just that the disease affects different people in different ways! The same person can have different symptoms each attack. You can imagine how frustrating it would be to both worker and employer if a worker came to work one week in a wheel chair and then the next month she could walk. Then a year months later she could still walk, but says she can't read her computer screen without magnification. And then she is fine. And then a year later she calls in sick for 3 weeks because she is too fatigued to leave the house. Unfortunately, since people with MS often don't look sick and they have symptoms that come and go, some confused employers treat an employees with MS unfairly.

Compared with big diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes, why should you care about MS? While it is true that MS isn't as common or as deadly as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada. In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Within our country, Manitoba has one of the highest rates of MS in Canada. Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie, who heads the MS Clinic in Winnipeg, published a paper about MS prevalence in Manitoba in the January 2010 issue of Neurology. She concluded Manitoba has one of the highest prevalence rates of MS in the world. So, Multiple Sclerosis does affect a lot of people in our area.

What is new is MS research? Well there is cannabis. Cannabis is already quite well accepted to treat MS related spasticity. But there is still so much about cannabis and MS that we don't know. In March 2019, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada announced a partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to provide $1.5 million in funding for cannabis and MS research. The funding will go towards research into the use of cannabis to manage symptoms associated with MS and its effect on the disease.

"Hey other people took the tomatoes off their sandwiches too." This is not as odd as it sounds. Eric doesn't say much other than grunts and whining noises when asked to turn off his Xbox and walk the dog. But apropos of nothing he'll drop complete non sequitur sentence on you. It's turned into a kind of game. "Which people took tomatoes off their sandwiches?" "In Regina." "When were you in Regina?" "Coming home from the band trip." "So, these were people in your class?" "Yeah at the Pizza Place. The sandwiches on the way to Moose Jaw weren't that good. But the ones on the way home were great! They had all this special cheese melted everywhere and lots of other people in my class hate tomatoes too!" More teenaged communications that are slow, garbled or go missing altogether.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

MS Society of Canada


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