Diabetes Could Be a Cause For Symptoms You Think Are MS Related


Knowing Difference Between MS Symptoms and Secondary Conditions

Living with Multiple Sclerosis is bad enough but you can also be diagnosed with other conditions that could occur which are aggravated by some medications used to treat MS. The one that I am most concerned about is Diabetes. There seems to be an increase in adults being diagnosed with Adult Onset Diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes. It usually occurs without warning and often runs in families, but after researching medications used to treat MS and even exacerbations, most of them list increased blood sugar as one of their side effects. Solumedrol, which is a steroid, is used to decrease inflammation during a MS attack or exacerbation and it too can cause increased blood sugar.

Whether you have diabetes or not, with a continued increase blood sugar there can be another condition that arises called neuropathy that comes about from decreased circulation usually to the extremities.  You can have Peripheral Neuropathy even without having diabetes which the usual complaint is numbness, tingling in legs and feet with the most sensation being the “bee like stings” or “pins and needles” that accompanies this. Some even talk about the discoloration or reddening appearance of the feet or legs. Many often think this is related to the MS but it is altogether a different disorder requiring treatment.

What I want to talk about is treating your body like you have Diabetes even if you do not have the diagnosis for one very important reason; it is because of our skin. Our skin is the first line of defense our body has to prevent us from infections. With Multiple Sclerosis, often times we have decreased sensations in our extremities like not being able to tell water temperature with our feet or hands. This happens when the nerve transmission from the extremity to our brain is blocked usually by a lesion, preventing us from knowing when something is too hot to touch therefore causing a burn to take place. When we have numbness in our feet or even our hands, we can have injury to the skin from sores that occur or cuts we get which allows a break in our skin allowing infection inside. Of course an infection can cause a MS attack or exacerbation so to prevent this from happening we need to do some of the following:

  • Check water temperature with a part of your body that has the most sensation in it before getting in to it
  • Inspect your body especially your hands and feet daily for any potential breaks in the skin that can get infected and treat appropriately
  • Keep nails manicured to prevent injuring yourself with scratching while awake or asleep
  • Wear appropriate size shoes
  • If on your feet a lot, keep a close eye on swelling of feet and ankles to maintain appropriate circulation.
  • If your blood sugar does tend to run higher than it should, watch the amount of sugar and carbohydrates that you take in and avoid sugary drinks
  • Equally important to watch your salt/sodium intake to prevent water retention
  • If using your hands a lot be sure to check often for breaks or sores
  • If finding a break in the skin, apply an over-the –counter antibiotic cream and covering over the site to assist with healing; change frequently and allow air dry time when you can. A moist wound will take longer to heal and often promotes infection
  • If sitting for long periods of time, take frequent breaks to get up and walk around to help with increased circulation.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of Diabetes even if you don’t have it because of our increased risk of getting it from some of the treatments. If problems or symptoms arise that you are not sure about, be sure to document it so that you can remember to talk with your physician about. Even though you may be seeing a MS doctor on a regular basis, it is important to have a Primary Care Physician that you see at least once a year to obtain a physical from. This is a good time for blood work to be done to rule out other problems that can arrive from medications we take to help with our MS. Even though MS has such a wide variety of symptoms, not everything we experience is related to it. It is better to be safe than sorry.

MS Blogger and Multiple Sclerosis Activist shares her journey living with MS, tips for others living MS and her husband, Steve, offers his insight as a caregiver for MS.