Nicola Hyslop.jpgWorld MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Day is observed on May 30 every year and aims to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis and bring together those who are living with the condition to share their stories.

MS is a neurological condition that affects the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord causing a range of symptoms such as problems with balance, vision and muscle control.

It is one of the most common causes of disability in younger adults and while it can develop at any age it’s more commonly diagnosed in people in their 20s or 30s. It is about three times more common in woman and slightly reduces life expectancy.

The cause of MS is currently unknown, and at the moment there is no cure. However, research is progressing quickly in the hope of finding one.

Nicola Hyslop, was appointed as the Advanced MS Champion for North Cumbria in July 2019, as part of an MS Trust funded pilot which established six Advanced MS Champions at sites across the UK. 

Nicola’s role is to focus solely on the needs of people with advanced MS, as these people are often least able to access MS services, but have complex needs and are most vulnerable to otherwise avoidable complications. 

Nicola said: “The goal is to deliver proactive, holistic care and work across boundaries to coordinate and develop care pathways, which address the needs of this group of people.”

Nicola was recently invited to speak at the 24th annual virtual MS Trust, and delivered a workshop about “optimising respiratory function in patients with advanced MS”, and received lovely feedback from her peers.   

One lady, called Nicola, who is living with advanced MS, said: “Since accessing this service (my Advanced MS Champion), I have felt a sense of complete support, relief and comfort, especially during the current climate. I have had a number of health issues that have caused various problems with my MS including a recent hospital admission with suspected COVID-19. Nicola has fully supported me all the way and I don’t think I could have coped without her support. I no longer feel at a loss with my condition. This service is invaluable to myself and individuals dealing with MS.”

Another service user, Dawn, who also has advanced MS, said: “Since meeting (my Advanced MS Champion) Nicola, I’ve had a steady stream ofNicola and Dawn1.jpg district nurses, physios, social workers, occupational therapists and wheelchair services. This proves she didn’t just sit listening to me – she took action as well, to which I can only say a massive thank you. I can with great pride say, I have a brilliant Advanced MS Champion.”

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The symptoms of MS vary widely from person to person and can affect any part of the body.

The main symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • difficulty walking
  • vision problems, such as blurred vision
  • problems controlling the bladder
  • numbness or tingling in different parts of the body
  • muscle stiffness and spasms
  • problems with balance and co-ordination
  • problems with thinking, learning and planning

Depending on the type of MS you have, your symptoms may come and go in phases or get steadily worse over time (progress).

Getting medical advice

See a GP if you're worried you might have early signs of MS.

The early symptoms often have many other causes, so they're not necessarily a sign of MS.

Let your GP know about the specific pattern of symptoms you're experiencing.

If they think you could have MS, you'll be referred to a specialist in conditions of the nervous system (a neurologist), who may suggest tests such as an MRI scan to check for features of MS.