Women And Multiple Sclerosis

During 1997, Ann Romney began experiencing severe numbness, fatigue, and other symptoms, and just before Thanksgiving in 1998, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  Mitt Romney described watching her fail a series of neurological tests as the worst day of his life.  He later said: “I couldn’t operate without Ann. We’re a partnership. We’ve always been a partnership so her being healthy and our being able to be together is essential.”

She initially experienced a period of severe difficulty with the disease, and later said: “I was very sick in 1998 when I was diagnosed. I was pretty desperate, pretty frightened and very, very sick. It was tough at the beginning, just to think, this is how I’m going to feel for the rest of my life.”  As I watched Ann Romney on the podium at the Republican Convention I never would have guessed that she had MS if she hadn’t disclosed that she did.

Celebrities who have been touched by MS are Montel Williams who decided to view his illness as ” a call to action — an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of millions who suffer from MS and their loved ones.”  Richard Pryor, Annette Funicello, Alan Osmond (Donny Osmond’s brother), Teri Garr (National MS Society WAMS Chair), David Lander (Squiggy from “Laverne & Shirley”. And of course, Michelle Obama whose father was diagnosed with MS at a young age.  He lived with the disease for about 30 years before his death at the age of 66.  Michelle had this to say about her father:

“My Dad was our rock. Although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early thirties, he was our provider, our champion, our hero. But as he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, it took him longer to get dressed in the morning. But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing — even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my Mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder.”

What is Multiple Sclerosis?  

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the nerves of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) degenerate. Myelin, which provides a covering or insulation for nerves, improves the conduction of impulses along the nerves and also is important for maintaining the health of the nerves. In multiple sclerosis, inflammation causes the myelin to disappear. Consequently, the electrical impulses that travel along the nerves decelerate, that is, become slower. In addition, the nerves themselves are damaged. As more and more nerves are affected, a person experiences a progressive interference with functions that are controlled by the nervous system such as vision, speech, walking, writing, and memory.

About 350,000 people in the U.S. have multiple sclerosis. Usually, a person is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis between 20 and 50 years of age, but multiple sclerosis has been diagnosed in children and in the elderly. Multiple sclerosis is twice as likely to occur in Caucasians as in any other group. Women are twice as likely as men to be affected by multiple sclerosis earlier in life.

What causes Multiple Sclerosis?  The cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown. In the last 20 years, researchers have focused on disorders of the immune system and genetics for explanations.

Is multiple sclerosis inherited?

Although its role is unclear, genetics may play a role in multiple sclerosis.  Statistics suggest that genetic factors play a major role in multiple sclerosis, however, other data suggest that environmental factors also play an important role.

What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis may be single or multiple and may range from mild to severe in intensity and short to long in duration. Complete or partial remission from symptoms occurs early in about 70% of individuals with multiple sclerosis.

  • Visual disturbances may be the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but they usually subside. A person may notice a patch of blurred vision, red-to-orange or red-to-gray distortions (color desaturation), or monocular visual loss (loss of vision in one eye). Visual symptoms due to optic nerve inflammation (optic neuritis) in multiple sclerosis usually are accompanied or preceded by eye pain.
  • Limb weakness with or without difficulties with coordination and balance may occur early.
  • Muscle spasmsfatigue, numbness, and prickling pain are common symptoms.
  • There may be a loss of sensation, speech impediment (typically a problem articulating words), tremors, or dizziness.

Fifty-percent of people experience mental changes such as:

  • decreased concentration,
  • attention deficits,
  • some degree of memory loss,
  • inability to perform sequential tasks, or
  • impairment in judgment.

Other symptoms may include:

As the disease worsens, individuals may experience sexual dysfunction or reduced bowel and bladder control. Heat appears to intensify multiple sclerosis symptoms for about 60% of those with the disease. Pregnancy seems to reduce the number of attacks, especially during the third trimester.

How is multiple sclerosis treated?

There are many issues for the patient and physician to consider in treating multiple sclerosis. Goals may include:

  • improving the speed of recovery from attacks (treatment with steroid drugs);
  • reducing the number of attacks or the number of MRI lesions; or
  • attempting to slow progression of the disease (treatment with disease modifying drugs or DMDs).

An additional goal is relief from complications due to the loss of function of affected organs (treatment with drugs aimed at specific symptoms).

Most neurologists will consider treatment with DMDs once the diagnosis of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis is established. Many will begin treatment at the time of the first multiple sclerosis attack, since clinical trials have suggested that patients in whom treatment is delayed may not benefit as much as patients who are treated early.

It is important for patients to talk to their doctor before deciding to go on therapy since DMDs differ in their uses.  Utilizing support groups or counseling may be helpful for patients and their families whose lives may be affected directly by multiple sclerosis.

According to an international study, genetic differences between men and women could be the reason why multiple sclerosis strikes more women than men.  MS is twice as common among women as it is in men. The reasons for the gap aren’t known.  Women with MS were more likely to have a variation of a gene that produces high levels of a protein called interferon gamma. Interferon gamma can aggravate MS by promoting inflammation and tissue damage.  The gene variation was less common among men. “That might explain why men are generally protected more from MS.” Brian Weinshenker, MD said in a news release.   Similar findings were reported by Italian researchers.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, please see your doctor.  It’s hard for someone who is diagnosed with MS.  They fear what the future holds for them and if they would be able to function.  They may feel alone but they are not.  Here are some helpful tips for new MS patients:
1. Learn as much as possible about MS.

There are many myths and misconceptions about MS, and without the facts, your multiple sclerosis diagnosis can be scarier than it should be. MS is a chronic autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. It’s caused when the immune system attacks the myelin, the protective insulation covering nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin is destroyed and replaced by scars of hardened tissue (lesions), and some underlying nerves are damaged. But MS is almost never fatal, and many people diagnosed with the disease never need a wheelchair. Your doctor can provide you with the latest facts about MS and what your prognosis may be. The National MS Society and the American Academy of Neurology are also reliable sources.

2. Be sure your multiple sclerosis diagnosis is definitive.
MS is not an easy disease to diagnosis, so getting a definitive multiple sclerosis diagnosis can be a waiting game. Various tests may be used to make a diagnosis, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), evoked potentials (EP), and spinal fluid analysis (spinal tap), as well as a neurological exam. According to the latest criteria, your physician must do all of the following in order to make a multiple sclerosis diagnosis:

  • Find evidence of damage in two separate areas of the central nervous system
  • Find evidence that the damage occurred at least one month apart
  • Rule out all other possible diseases and diagnoses

For many people, getting a definitive multiple sclerosis diagnosis is actually a relief — they now have a name for unexplained symptoms.

3. Understand that MS symptoms are unpredictable.
No two people have exactly the same MS symptoms, and you may have different symptoms from time to time. MS symptoms can include numbness, blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, extreme fatigue, problems with memory, bladder dysfunction, paralysis, blindness, and more. But these symptoms are unpredictable. “Over the course of the disease, some MS symptoms will come and go, while others may be long lasting,” says Dr. Sheremata. “It will be different for each MS patient.”

4. Don’t delay multiple sclerosis treatment.
At this time, the goal of multiple sclerosis treatment is to control symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life. After receiving a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, it’s important to start multiple sclerosis treatment as soon as possible. There are now a number of FDA-approved medications that have been shown to “modify” or slow down the progression of MS and lessen the frequency and severity of MS attacks. “The disease is more likely to progress and possibly lead to disability if you don’t begin treatment early in the disease,” says Sheremata.

5. Track your MS symptoms.
Keeping a record of your MS symptoms and how you are feeling will help your doctor determine how the disease is progressing and whether the medications you are taking are working. This will also help your doctor recognize a relapse, which is a characterized by a worsening of previous symptoms or the appearance of a new symptom that lasts more than 24 hours. If you think you’re having MS symptoms, write them down in a log. Include when the symptoms happened, details of what they felt like, and how long they lasted.

6. Avoid these MS episode triggers.
Extreme fatigue is a common indicator of an impending relapse, which can last for days, weeks, or months. But certain triggers are thought to bring on relapses or make them worse. Stress, smoking, fever, hot baths, and sun exposure are believed to contribute to the worsening of MS symptoms and relapses. Additionally, drinking alcohol in excess is discouraged for people with multiple sclerosis because intoxication causes poor coordination and slurred speech, which can worsen or add to existing MS symptoms.

7. Find the right doctor for you.
MS is a lifelong disease, so it’s important to be under the care of aMS specialist who is a good match for you. The neurologist who provides your initial multiple sclerosis diagnosis may not be the specialist you want to stick with for life. Your local chapter of the National MS Society should have a listing of nearby neurologists specializing in MS. Support groups for MS patients (available through hospitals and the National MS Society) are also helpful for getting doctor referrals.

8. Consider complementary and alternative medicine.
In addition to taking medication to control your MS symptoms, you may want to consider complementary and alternative medicine(CAM), such as biofeedback, acupuncture, guided imagery, meditation, massage, tai chi, yoga, and dietary supplements. More than 30 percent of people with MS turn to complementary forms of medicine to relieve symptoms, according to a recent review of studies published in the journal Occupational Therapy International. These natural therapies were most used by MS patients for relief of pain, fatigue, and stress.

9. Think first about who you will tell about your MS.
Announcing to your employer that you have multiple sclerosis could have an effect on your job security, employment options, and career path. Before disclosing the disease at your workplace, learn about your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course, you’ll want to tell your closest family members and friends, particularly those who know you well enough to notice that something is wrong. But you are not obligated to share news of your multiple sclerosis diagnosis with everyone in your life. Instead, pick the people who will be most supportive and helpful as you begin to cope with the disease.

10. Don’t give up hope.
Although there is currently no cure for MS, new treatments and advances in research may better relieve symptoms and even eliminate the disease in the future. Because MS strikes so many people in the prime of life, scientists are racing to find a cure, and a number of new multiple sclerosis treatments are currently under investigation. This research is giving new hope to people affected by MS.

Notes to Women encourages you to seek help, advice and inspiration from others living with MS.  Here’s a website you might want to check out:  http://www.msrc.co.uk/index.cfm/fuseaction/show/pageid/2660  Don’t give up hope.  New treatments are offered for MS.  These therapies are enabling physicians to both control the disease and help patients function better.  Read more.
As I travel across the country speaking about MS, perhaps I can offer others comfort and hope.
Annette Funicello
Multiple Sclerosis is obviously close to my heart and I’m determined to make a difference in the lives of people who suffer from the disease by raising the profile of MS, as well as raising funds for advocacy and research.
Ann Romney
Oddly enough, MS has made my life so much better than it was before. I now appreciate what I have and I am not running around like a rat in a maze.
Teri Garr
MS doesn’t define who I am.
Teri Garr

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Romneyhttp://www.tampabay.com/news/health/medicine/multiple-sclerosis-patients-doctors-appreciate-help-from-ann-romney/1251966http://www.ranker.com/list/10-celebrities-touched-by-multiple-sclerosis/medicaltraveler?page=2http://www.medicinenet.com/multiple_sclerosis/article.htm#what_is_multiple_sclerosishttp://www.everydayhealth.com/multiple-sclerosis/10-things-new-ms-patients-should-know.aspx

Education of Women and Girls

Just recently I read that Sir Thomas More placed great importance on the education of women.  Here’s an exerpt from his biography on Wikipedia:

More took a serious interest in the education of women, an attitude that was highly unusual at the time. Believing women to be just as capable of academic accomplishment as men, More insisted upon giving his daughters the same classical education given to his son.  The academic star of the family was More’s eldest daughter Margaret, who attracted much admiration for her erudition, especially her fluency in Greek and Latin.  More recounted a moment of such admiration in a letter to Margaret in September 1522, when the Bishop of Exeter was shown a letter written by Margaret to More:

When he saw from the signature that it was the letter of a lady, his surprise led him to read it more eagerly… he said he would never have believed it to be your work unless I had assured him of the fact, and he began to praise it in the highest terms… for its pure Latinity, its correctness, its erudition, and its expressions of tender affection. He took out at once from his pocket a portague [A Portuguese gold coin]… to send to you as a pledge and token of his good will towards you.

 

The success More enjoyed in educating his daughters set an example for other noble families. Even Erasmus became much more favourable towards the idea once he witnessed the accomplishments of More’s daughters.

It is wonderful to hear or read about men who don’t have a problem with women being educated.  As a woman I cannot imagine not enjoying the benefits of a good education.  Growing up, I was exposed to great works of literature.  I developed the love for reading and writing since I was a child.  I remember the big red Oxford dictionaries I always consulted whenever I came across a new word.  My parents took pride in sending my sisters and me to good schools so that we could get quality education.

I was touched by Michelle Obama’s story of how hard her father worked so that she and her brother could get a good education.  Michelle attended  Whitney Young High School, Chicago’s first magnet high school, where she was a classmate of Jesse Jackson’s daughter Santita.  She was on the honor roll for four years, took advanced placement classes, a member of the National Honor Society and served as student council treasurer.  She graduated in 1981 as the salutatorian of her class.  Michelle attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.  Michelle stated in an address to students at a public school in Chile that she and her husband, Barak owe their successes to good education.  She believes that education prepared her for the world.  “Growing up there was never any question in my parents’ mind that we would go to college. … And they always told us that even if we weren’t rich, we were just as smart and just as capable as anyone else. … They thought us that if we dreamed big enough and if we worked hard enough anything was possible.”

What are the benefits of educating women and girls?  Higher rates of high school and university education among women, particularly in developing countries, have helped them make inroads to professional careers and better-paying salaries and wages. Education increases a woman’s (and her partner and the family’s) level of health and health awareness. Furthering women’s levels of education and advanced training also tends to lead to later ages of initiation of sexual activity and first intercourse, later age at first marriage, and later age at first childbirth, as well as an increased likelihood to remain single, have no children, or have no formal marriage and alternatively, have increasing levels of long-term partnerships. It can lead to higher rates of barrier and chemical contraceptive use (and a lower level of sexually transmitted infections among women and their partners and children), and can increase the level of resources available to women who divorce or are in a situation of domestic violence. It has been shown, in addition, to increase women’s communication with their partners and their employers, and to improve rates of civic participation such as voting or the holding of office.   Improving girls’ educational levels has been demonstrated to have clear impacts on the health and economic future of young women, which in turn improves the prospects of their entire community.

When you educate a girl in Africa, everything changes. She’ll be three times less likely to get HIV/AIDS, earn 25 percent more income and have a smaller, healthier family – CAMFED USA

Unfortunately, barriers to education for girls remain.  In some African countries, such as Burkina Faso, girls are unlikely to attend school for such basic reasons as a lack of private latrine facilities for girls.

I have also heard the saying that education is the greatest weapon to fight poverty.  According to Aid For Africa, “when a girl in Africa gets the chance to go to school and stay in school, the cycle of poverty is broken and things change.”  There is nothing more heartbreaking than a girl who wants to become a nurse or a teacher but she can’t because for many poor girls in Africa culture and tradition often keeps them at home while their brothers go to school.

Education can take a woman a long way and open many doors of opportunity.  It gives her a sense of accomplishment and value.  She is not limited.  She can dream big and reach big goals.  Education improves gender equality and empowers girls and women.  Education could mean something as simple as wanting to learn how to write your name.

“ Education is a lifetime inheritance. It is a lifetime insurance.
Education is the key to success, a bus to a brighter future for
all our people. Without education, there is little that a person
can do—actually there is nothing a person can do without an
education. A person is never too old for knowledge; as my people,
the Xhosa, always say, ‘Imfundo ayigugelwa’ (Every day is an
education; you learn something new). We must be knowledge
seekers and we must strive for a better life through education.”
ZUKISWA, AGE 16 (Ubuntu Education Fund) Kwa Magxaki Township, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

For those of us who have access to education, let us be thankful and pass down the importance of learning to our children, especially our daughters.  Let’s remember the women who fought to have the right to education and to vote and all the rights that were once denied to women.  Let us think of the mothers and fathers whose parents could not afford to send them to school or university but they in turn worked hard to provide their children with quality education.  Let us think of the women and girls who live in countries where their education is not valued.  Let us do what we can to help our own children succeed in life or prepare them for the world through education.  And let us see what we can do to help organizations like CAMFED, Aid for Africa, Global Fund for Children to help women and girl to have the quality of life they should have through education.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
― Brigham Young

“Segregation shaped me; education liberated me.”
― Maya Angelou

“There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and women.”Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

“Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody. ”
― Jane Austen

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
― Malcolm X

“Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.
African proverb via Greg Mortensen”
― Greg MortensonThree Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time

“Knowledge will bring you the opportunity to make a difference.”
― Claire Fagin

“I learned to dream through reading, learned to create dreams through writing, and learned to develop dreamers through teaching. I shall always be a dreamer.”
― Sharon M. Draper

“Education is the movement from darkness to light.”
― Allan Bloom

“Learning is important. It is a way to make a life better for yourself and your family.”
― Rosie ThomasIris And Ruby

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Morehttp://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/21/michelle-obama-education-prepared-world/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_educationhttp://us.camfed.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home_index;  http://www.aidforafrica.org/girls/http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTEDUCATION/0,,contentMDK:20298916~menuPK:617572~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:282386,00.htmlhttp://www.globalfundforchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/GFC_AnnualReport_2002-03.pdf