Lisa Bobo, of Louisville, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2008. She is one of hundreds of Kentuckians diagnosed with MS each year.
"I was having a burning sensation in the right side of my face that hurt so bad I wasn't able to think, and a tingling in my arm that hurt so bad I wasn't able to key at work," she said. "Initially I was in complete denial. It wasn't until a second positive MRI in February of last year that I finally started to accept the diagnosis."
MS, which can lead to devastating physical issues, is actually a neurological disorder. In fact, it is the most common neurological disorder among young adults.
"MS is a disease that involves the nervous system," said Robert Tillet Jr., M.D., neurology. "In MS patients, the immune system has become misdirected and will periodically cause attacks of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in a variety of symptoms from muscle spasms to pain throughout the body."
"My pain would jump from different areas of my body and seemed to go in a circular pattern," Bobo said. "When I was first diagnosed, I started keeping a journal to track my symptoms and to see if certain activities would trigger my symptoms. I wanted to get to know my MS."
There is no known cause for MS. However, according to Dr. Tillett, there are several theories. MS, which can lead to devastating physical issues, is actually a neurological disorder. In fact, it is the most common neurological disorder among young adults.
"Current thought is that viruses or ordinary bacteria we're exposed to when we grow up may play a role in altering the immune system," Dr. Tillett said. "Another theory that has received a great deal of attention is exposure to sunlight and the development of vitamin D. When you are in the sun your skin actually makes vitamin D, and if your diet is low in vitamin D you will be very dependent on this source. Some studies have shown that individuals with low sun exposure growing up have a higher risk of developing MS."
Although there is no cure for MS, treatments are available to help manage symptoms and pain, and support is available for the mental, emotional, social and financial struggles patients also may face.
"Since symptoms vary from person to person, we develop a personal care plan for each patient based on his or her needs," Dr. Tillett said. "There are a number of medications, rehabilitation, diet modifications and other treatments that have proven effective in helping people better manage MS."
"When you are diagnosed with MS you realize you have come to a crossroads - the 'me' before MS and the 'me' with MS," Bobo said. "Today I feel wonderful. I'm excited, blessed and love my children. I'm looking forward to the year ahead, managing my disease and living life to the fullest."