Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative disease in which a person's immune system attacks neurons (pictured above) in the brain and spinal cord. As a result of neuronal damage, signals sent between the brain and bodily regions are not properly conducted. The motor, visual, cognitive, or sensory systems can be negatively affected depending on which neurons are damaged.
Visual disturbances are among the earliest signs of MS and usually develop as a partial loss of vision or blurred or double vision. A person diagnosed with MS may also experience sensory disturbances such as numbness, impaired sensation to pain, touch, and temperature. Other symptoms may include spasticity, weakness, memory loss, tremor and fatigue.
A diagnosis of MS is progressive and affects each person differently depending on the severity and stage of the disease. Self-care skills are often affected, resulting in loss of independence in dressing, bathing and toilet hygiene. Eating may be challenging if the person loses the ability to coordinate muscles need for chewing and swallowing food. MS can lead to reduced ability to performed other daily activities such as work, play and social participation in the community. Occupational therapists who work with people diagnosed with MS can offer therapy and ongoing access to treatment and other supports to improve their ability to maintain meaningful and productive occupations and roles.
An occupational therapist may:
-assist with daily routines and roles
-assess a home or work environment and recommend modifications
-provide education on assistive devices such as walkers or wheelchairs
- teach strategies to conserve energy
Reference: Atchison, Ben, and Diane Dirette PhD. Conditions in Occupational Therapy: Effect on Occupational Performance. Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2012.