“But You Look Great!” – Living with Multiple Sclerosis

orange ribbon multiple sclerosis awareness

Compliments.  We all love to get them.  But what happens when you may look great outwardly, but you’re dealing with a serious disability or illness?  Most disabilities and illnesses come with symptoms which are visible to others.  How do you cope when your illness has little or no outward signs?  This is quite common in patients who are living with Multiple Sclerosis.


Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a long-lasting disease that can affect your brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves in your eyes. It can cause problems with vision, balance, muscle control, and other basic body functions. Some symptoms of MS include:

Extreme Fatigue, vision difficulties, bladder and bowel control, muscle weakness, difficulty walking, and unexplained body pain.  All of these can often lead to difficulty for the MS patient to focus on tasks and can affect recall and memory.  All too often, dealing with the myriad of issues leads to depression and anxiety.

The effects are often different for everyone who has the disease. Some people have mild symptoms and don’t need treatment. Others will have trouble getting around and doing daily tasks.

Doctors don’t know for sure what causes MS, but there are many things that seem to make the disease more likely. People with certain genes may have higher chances of getting it. Smoking also may raise the risk.  It can be hard to diagnose MS, since its symptoms can be the same as many other nerve disorders. If your doctor thinks you have it, they’ll want you to see a specialist who treats the brain and nervous system, called a neurologist. They’ll ask you about your medical history and check you for key signs of nerve damage in your brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.

LIVING WITH MULTIPLE SCLEROSISreflex test multiple sclerosis doctor exam

For individuals living with MS, it can be especially challenging in that there are little to no outward signs that they have the disease.  Many patients share about the frustration and embarrassment they feel simply because they are perceived as being weak, clumsy, forgetful, or at times, intoxicated.

Anne is a MS patient, living in Georgia.  She sums up what many MS patients feel when she said, “I think the most difficult thing to cope with is the absolute dichotomy between how you look and how you feel.”  A MS diagnosis typically changes the way the patient thinks about themselves.  Their sense of self-worth is often determined by job, marriage, family, and friends.

As Anne states, one of the biggest challenges for the MS suffer is managing the constant struggle of how they feel versus how they look to the outside world.  For this reason, it is necessary for the community of friends, family, and co-workers to educate themselves and understand the struggles unique to a person dealing with MS.  If you are struggling with MS, it is important to have open and honest communication with family, friends to allow for appropriate accommodations and understanding.  Additionally, make use of your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for additional information and support!

If you are looking for additional information about various aspects of MS, please visit https://www.nationalmssociety.org/.

If you have questions about your healthcare benefits or need help locating a physician, contact your Care Coordinator at 888.803.0081 or visit us at www.TSHBP.org.

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