First questions

Explore answers to some of your first questions about MS and the effects it could have on your life.

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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. Our MS Helpline is available weekdays 9am-7pm on 0808 800 8000 if you want to talk about how MS is affecting your life. Local MS Society groups offer direct access to a support network of experienced volunteers.

Find out about exercise, diet and treatments

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

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.

You might pick up tips from other people with MS, or from a reliable source like us or the MS Trust. We only provide 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 health care professional.

Read more about MS on our website or download resources for people with MS.

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.

See the MS pathway on the NICE website

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

Find out more about what to expect from health care services

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.

Find out more about types of 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.

MS is different for everyone, and it’s not possible to predict how you'll be affected over time. But over recent decades people with MS have been living longer. This is because medical care is getting better. People are also living longer thanks to DMTs (disease modifying therapies). Research shows that, on average, people with MS have a life expectancy that's seven years shorter than the general population.

Many people worry about needing to use a wheelchair at some point. No-one one can be certain how your MS will affect you, although most people with MS don't use a wheelchair.

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.

If your MS does start to affect your mobility, the decision to start using a walking stick, mobility scooter or wheelchair can be a difficult one. But once you start using one you may find – as many people with MS do – how useful they are, and how they can help you to retain your independence.

The precise causes of MS are still not known. And we definitely can't say why you yourself got MS. Maybe it was a combination of things. These could be your genes, something in the environment (like an infection) or something to do with your lifestyle.

You weren't in a position to know what these things were - or what to do about them. The chances are there was nothing you could do to avoid MS. So try not to give yourself a hard time over why MS has happened.

Find out more about the possible causes of MS

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 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.

Find out more about work and MS

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 about living with MS

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.

Find out more about having children with MS

Many people worry their children will also get MS. There is a genetic aspect to MS, but it's not the whole story and MS is not directly inherited.

There is only around a 1.5% chance of a child developing MS if one parent has it. This means about 1 in 67 would get MS.

Find out more about genes and MS

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