June 15, 2004
Actress Teri Garr has joined the fight against multiple sclerosis. She's currently touring the country, speaking to groups. Garr says although there is still no cure for MS, coping with it has gotten easier. She spoke with Eye on Health about her own experience with multiple sclerosis.
"I think there's a lot of myths out there about MS. And people don't know exactly what it is. So I'm out talking about it," Garr said. And so the Academy Award nominee has put down movie scripts to read up on multiple sclerosis after her own diagnosis.
Multiple sclerosis affects the central nervous system. The cause is mysterious, but some think it may be triggered by a childhood virus.
Las Vegas neurologist Morton Hyson explains there are wide ranges of symptoms, including numbness, imbalance and vision problems. "The most common symptom is perhaps blurred vision. The most common first attack is often what's called optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve. And patients, female more often than males, get blurred vision."
MS can become debilitating, but that's not always the case. Teri Garr has multiple sclerosis and says, "I've been very fortunate not to have a lot of terrible things happen. I've always been crazy and I accept that. I've had some weakness on the right side but it's not been horrible."
The MRI has made diagnosis much easier. And medications to treat symptoms have improved. "We refer to them as the A-B-C drugs -- "A" meaning Avonex, "B" meaning Betaseron, "C" meaning Copaxone. And now there's another one called Rebif. They're all injectables. There is still no pill to treat MS," explained neurologist Dr. Morton Hyson.
Teri Garr encourages patients not to give up. "I think once you start fighting back and standing up to it, it's better. You feel better and it's better for you," she said.
Dr. Hyson adds, "But having a positive attitude, humor seems to help people. On the other hand, stress is a major aggravating factor, there's no doubt about it."
Unfortunately, two staples of Las Vegas life -- hot tubs and high heat
-- can make the symptoms of MS worse.
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