Multiple sclerosis in the family

Posted on December 2, 2019 by in Multiple Sclerosis
 | Oak Street Medical

Since March is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month, I thought I would share our experience with the disease.

My wife, Mary Beth, developed MS at age 22 in 1971. Like the majority of those with this disease, she was young and female. In fact, in most cases, symptoms develop in women age 20-40, at a ratio of 3:1 over men.

She had the classic signs of MS, including double vision, tingling and weakness in the extremities, particularly her legs, a lack of coordination and bladder dysfunction.

At the time, there was no MRI or other means of confirming the diagnosis, other than clinical findings. Her symptoms improved with the treatments available, which included corticosteroids, rest and a low-fat diet developed by Dr. Roy Swank who was then chief of Neurology at the University of Oregon Medical School, now Oregon Health & Science University.

The 25 years that followed were a roller coaster of exacerbations and remissions, because there was no disease-modifying agents like those we’ve had for the last 15 years. We did the best with what we had, and we were able to compensate for disabilities with home modifications, assistive devices, handicap vans and wonderful caregivers.

At the dawn of the new century, there were major developments and breakthroughs that made life much better for those newly diagnosed with MS.

Multiple sclerosis can be diagnosed much earlier and with a much higher degree of certainty than before. New developments have also led to more effective therapies that can now be started much earlier, lessening future exacerbations and complications.

An excellent source of information is available at