Professional dancer Courtney Galiano is accustomed to pushing her body to the limit. So, when she woke up one morning and couldn't feel her legs, she considered the numbness to be just part of the price a dancer pays.
Six months later, Courtney — a finalist from Season 4 of So You Think You Can Dance — had an "electricity" feeling all the way down to her toes, but again, she didn’t pay any attention to it.
“Right before Christmas, my right side went numb, and I knew something was wrong," Courtney explains. Her doctors ordered MRIs and a brain scan, and Courtney finally found out the truth behind her symptoms — she had multiple sclerosis.
MS is a potentially debilitating disease in which the body's immune system destroys the protective sheath that covers nerve tissue. The damage interferes with communications between your brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no known cause, and there is no cure.
MS is also difficult to diagnose, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Pfizer's chief medical officer, explains. "For starters, the symptoms are different from person to person. The course of the disease is very unpredictable, and in one individual person with MS, the symptoms can be all over the place. And, they come and go."
Symptoms of MS:
• Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs
• Partial or complete loss of central vision, usually in one eye, often with pain during eye movement (optic neuritis)
• Double vision or blurring of vision
• Tingling or pain in parts of your body
• Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain head movements
• Tremors, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
• Slurred speech
• Heat sensitivity is common. Small increases in body temperature can trigger or worsen symptoms.
Managing the Symptoms:
• Exercise is key, particularly aerobic exercise. It can improve balance, strength and endurance.
• Have a healthy diet, rich in low-fat, high-fiber foods.
• Schedule rest periods before you become fatigued. Frequent, short rests are beneficial.
• Take a disease-modifying therapy early. Studies have found that early treatment offers benefits against the accumulation of disability.
• Put together an experienced team of healthcare professionals. This may include: physicians, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, psychotherapists, social workers, recreational therapists and vocational rehabilitation therapists.
For more information, visit the Get Healthy Stay Healthy website.