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Managing MS and Another Condition

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Don’t assume that everything is related to your MS.
Get the right people on your medical team.
Keep your priorities straight.
Make sure each of your doctors has a complete list of everything you are taking.
When coordinating your own care gets too complicated, ask for help.


MS isn’t always the only health problem a person has to manage — another condition could have preceded the MS or appeared well after the MS diagnosis. This means that many people living with MS are also dealing with common problems like allergies or headaches, or more serious illnesses like diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Some people also have more than one immune-mediated disease to contend with. Here are some tips for managing more than one disease at the same time.

Don’t assume that everything is related to your MS

Whenever new symptoms appear, it’s tempting to attribute them to MS. While that may be the simplest and most obvious explanation, it may not be the right one. If the new problems are persistent — and seem unrelated to anything you’ve experienced in the past — it’s important to consult your neurologist or primary care physician.

The symptoms may be related to MS, the side effect of a medication or treatment you are receiving, or the first sign of a new condition altogether. The neurologist is your best resource for determining if the problem is related to MS or an MS treatment. If the symptoms appear to be unrelated to MS, he or she will refer you back to your primary care physician or to another specialist for further evaluation.

Get the right people on your medical team

Unless the new problem is neurological — such as migraines, seizures, or a stroke, the neurologist you’ve chosen to treat your MS is probably not be the best choice to help you manage another problem. In today’s world of specialty medicine, every disease should be treated by the physician with the most appropriate training in that area. If you’re unsure, ask your primary care physician.

Keep your priorities straight

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When you’re trying to manage more than one disease or condition at a time, it’s important to deal with the most urgent problem first. For example, a disease like cancer that’s life-threatening takes precedence over a disease like MS that’s not. The physicians you have chosen to treat you need to talk to you — and to each other — about the best way prioritize and manage your various treatment needs.

Make sure each of your doctors has a complete list of everything you are taking

Particularly in today’s world of specialized medicine—where each doctor tends to focus on one particular area of your care—it’s important to keep all your doctors informed about any treatments you are receiving. This information helps to ensure that you aren’t given medications that interfere with one another or combine in any harmful way. It’s also a good idea to use one pharmacy for as many of your medications as possible since the prescription software used by most pharmacists will automatically identify possible drug interactions.

The same recommendation holds for all over-the-counter products and complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) strategies you are using. Your doctors need complete information about everything you are taking in order to make the best and safest possible treatment recommendations for you.

When coordinating your own care gets too complicated, ask for help

When managing your health care begins to feel like a full-time job, or you simply don’t have the energy or ability to manage the numerous doctors, tests, appointments, prescriptions, and insurance plans, it may be time to look for some assistance. Call the National MS Society (1-800-344-4867) for information about care management resources in your area that might be able to assist you.

Anesthesia & Surgery

All forms of anesthesia are generally considered safe for people with MS. Be sure to discuss anesthesia options with your neurologist and the anesthesiologist prior to any scheduled surgery.

The majority of people with MS are healthy adults whose risks during elective surgical procedures are about the same as the general population.

Learn more

MS & Cancer Telephone Self-Help Group

Get support for dealing with MS and cancer at the same time. Join the MS & Cancer Telephone Self- Help Group

4th Wednesday of every month, 3:00pm CT 1-888-346-3659 (enter code 1073 when prompted) Group contact: Margaret Barney

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