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Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

 

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system - it may affect the brain, spinal cord and/or optic nerve.

The term multiple sclerosis relates to the numerous scars or lesions which affect the nerve fibres’ protective layer; a protein called myelin. This damage disrupts the way in which messages, or nerve impulses, are carried to and from the brain, and so can interfere with a range of the body’s functions.

Up to 85 per cent of people diagnosed have relapsing MS, where the symptoms appear and then fade away partially or completely. This could develop into secondary progressive MS if there is a sustained build-up of disability completely independent of relapses.

A third type of MS is known as Primary Progressive MS (PPMS) where symptoms gradually get worse over a period of time, rather than appearing as sudden attacks. Once diagnosed, MS cannot be cured but medication can generally manage the symptoms.

Traits

  • Impaired vision, dizziness and poor balance
  • Difficulty with bladder and bowel management
  • Stiffness and spasms, restricted or loss of mobility
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Tremors
  • Loss of memory
  • Slurred or difficult speech.
 

Potential impact on daily life and employment

  • Blurred or double vision (temporary or permanent) can affect a range of day-to-day activities
  • May need to avoid working at heights or in other environments where loss of balance could be dangerous
  • Spasms can be painful and may cause difficulties with sleep
  • There may be an overwhelming sense of tiredness
  • May have difficulty eating
  • MS most commonly affects memory, remembering recent events and remembering to do things, but most people do not develop severe cognitive conditions
  • In cases of severe tremors (usually many years after diagnosis) eating, drinking and other day-to-day tasks may be affected
  • If speech is affected (40-50 per cent of people with MS), the individual may feel uncomfortable in social situations.
 

Support in the workplace

  • Job coaching may be required to support learning the job and developing coping strategies to combat poor memory retention
  • Other support could include use of a dictaphone
  • Flexibility in the workplace to accommodate fluctuations in the condition should be considered where possible
  • Offer breaks to address fatigue and/or attention span
  • Understand the side effects of medication. Encourage the employee to inform someone at work if there are medication changes
  • Consider allocated car parking spaces for individuals with mobility restrictions.

 

There are estimated to be around 23,700 Australians with MS and of these 11,400 have a profound or severe core-activity limitation. 

Source; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013.

 

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