First questions

These common questions aim to give you some quick answers to some of the questions you may have about MS.

They provide a starting point for finding out about the condition and how it can affect a person's life.

Q: How can I adapt to life with MS?
Q: Can I carry on driving?
Q: Where can I get more information?
Q: What should I expect from the NHS?
Q: What are the stages of MS?
Q: Do people die from MS?
Q: Will I end up in a wheelchair?
Q: What did I do wrong? Could I have prevented this?
Q: Do I have to stop work?
Q: What’s going to happen?
Q: Can I have children?
Q: Will my children get MS?

How can I adapt to life with MS?

Adapting to life with MS can take time. Just as the condition affects each person differently, every individual has their own way of reacting to MS, but with the right health and social care, most people manage their condition well.

Most people get through the reaction to diagnosis but, like a bereavement reaction, it does take time. The MS Society Helpline is available weekdays 9am-9pm on 0808 800 8000 if you want to talk about how MS is affecting your life. Local branches of the MS Society offer direct access to a support network of experienced volunteers. 

Find out about exercise, diet and treatments.

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Can I carry on driving?

The good news is that most people with MS continue to drive as normal. You do have to inform the DVLA of your diagnosis. Read more on our Driving and DVLA pages.

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Where can I get more information?

Getting up-to-date, accurate information can help you gain the knowledge you need to make informed decisions and get the best from health and social care professionals.

Man offering advice and information booklet on MS

You might pick up tips from other people with MS, or from a reliable source like the MS Society or the MS Trust. The MS Society only provides information based on evidence.

If you have concerns about the validity or accuracy of information found online, or elsewhere call us on 0800 800 8000 or ask a healthcare professional. 

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What should I expect from the NHS?

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines set out best practice on all aspects of MS management in the NHS. They should give you a clearer idea of what to expect from health care services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and help professionals improve their service.

If you have any questions, problems or concerns (of a non-medical kind) about the health service you are receiving, you can contact (in England) your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). They will answer queries both from people with MS or those looking after them. In Wales you should contact your local Community Health Council (CHC) and in Northern Ireland you should contact the Patient Client Council.

In Scotland, the Clinical Standards for Neurological Health Services were published in 2009 and set out best practice on all aspects of MS management in the NHS. Health boards are still working towards the Standards, but the document will give you a clearer idea of what to expect from health care services in Scotland.

If you have concerns about the health care you are receiving you may find the Scotland Patients Association a useful source of support. The Independent Advice and Support Service, available through Citizens Advice Scotland, can also help you with a complaint.

Find out more about what to expect from healthcare services.

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What are the stages of MS?

There is no way to say what the stages of MS are, as they are different for everyone. Depending on the area of the nervous system affected, the symptoms of MS may be mild or severe, brief or long lasting, and may appear in various combinations at any stage. This can be frustrating, but unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer to this question. See ‘Types of MS’ for more information.

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Do people die from MS?

People don’t die directly from MS, but if they are severely affected, the risk of dying from a complication related to MS (like an infection) is larger.  Research suggests that on average life expectancy of people with MS is slightly lower than that of the general population.

MS is different for everyone, and unfortunately it’s not possible to predict how you will be affected over time. It’s as difficult to determine the life expectancy of someone with MS as it is for someone who doesn’t have MS. Some research shows survival has been improving in recent years, perhaps due to better health care. We do not know if disease modifying drugs, like beta interferon, influence life expectancy.

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Will I end up in a wheelchair?

Many people worry about 'ending up' in a wheelchair, but the majority of people with MS do not become severely disabled. Two-thirds of people who have MS remain able to walk, though many will need a walking aid (such as a cane or crutches) either intermittently or permanently.

Some will use a scooter or wheelchair because of symptoms like fatigue, weakness, balance problems, or to help conserve energy, and a smaller group - around 15% of people with MS who are more severely affected - will use a wheelchair on a full-time basis.

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What did I do wrong? Could I have prevented this?

The precise cause of MS is still not known, but there is nothing you did to get MS and nothing you could have done to prevent it. 

Find out more about the possible causes of MS

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Do I have to stop work?

Being told you have MS can make the future seem uncertain. It’s natural to worry about the effects on your job, home and financial situation. Over time, you’re likely to re-assess things and adjust, but it’s important not to rush into any major decisions.

Some of the symptoms of MS may only be temporary, while some may be long-term.

The unpredictability of MS, coupled with the variety of different jobs that people do, can raise quite complex issues for people in the workplace. For example, fatigue is a common symptom of MS and stress can make symptoms feel worse. Similarly, some activities – such as travelling or standing all day – can be very tiring.

Many people with MS continue to work after a diagnosis. Some many need to make appropriate adjustments to allow them to continue in their job, or they may choose to do a different job. And some may decide they are no longer able to work.

There are many resources to help you make your decision about staying at work, managing whilst there and returning to work after a break. There's more information on working with MS in the 'Support' section of our site

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What’s going to happen?

The truth is, no one can be certain how your MS will affect you. Many predictions made for MS are based on averages across many people. As with any average, people can be on either side of this ‘average experience’ – the average does not always accurately reflect the experiences of an individual.

Learning how to deal with unpredictability and being prepared to manage changes will help you take back the control you might feel MS has taken away. Find out more in the pages on living with MS

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Can I have children?

There is no reason having MS should stop you having children and being successful parents. MS doesn’t affect fertility. A parent with MS may be faced with more day-to-day problems in looking after children than the average parent – but these are not insurmountable.

For more information about having children, see the section on women's health.

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Will my children get MS?

Many people worry that their children will also get MS. There is a genetic aspect to MS, but it is by no means the whole story and MS is not directly inherited.

There is only around a two per cent chance of a child developing MS if one parent has it.

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Page last updated: 26 Mar 2013

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