The MS symptom catch-22

Some of the physical disabilities and symptoms caused by MS, such as coordination problems, fatigue, spasticity (involuntary muscle spasms), tremors, or vision problems, can get in the way when it comes to taking your medication as directed. It becomes a catch-22: you need the medication to deal with the symptoms, but the symptoms keep you from taking the medication. So what can you do?

The first step is to identify which symptoms are making it harder for you to take your medication. Then, you can create your own plan to make it easier by choosing the suggestions that match your symptoms.

If you have vision problems: You may have trouble reading your prescription bottle and seeing which medications you are taking. Here are a few things that may help:

  • Use a magnifying glass to read the label and view the medication.
  • Have someone (such as your pharmacist, a friend, or a caregiver) attach coloured, large-print tags to each drug container so that you can see them. If they do this, make sure someone double-checks their work.
  • Ask if your pharmacist can print your labels in larger type or Braille. If not, ask them to refer you to a pharmacy that can.
  • Have regular eye check-ups and keep your prescription for glasses up to date.

If you have coordination problems, spasticity, or tremors: It may be harder for you to open medication bottles (especially child-proof ones!) and give yourself injections. To get around these problems:

  • Ask your pharmacist to dispense your medication in non-childproof bottles. These should be easier to open. If you use non-childproof bottles, be sure to keep the medication well out of the reach of children. You can also use devices that are specially designed to help you get the bottle open – ask your pharmacist or occupational therapist where you can find one.
  • If you are giving yourself medications by injection, check to see if the medication is available as a prefilled syringe. With a prefilled syringe, you do not need to mix and measure the medication before injecting it. This can make it easier to administer, especially if you have coordination or spasticity problems.
  • Another option is to ask a friend, loved one, or caregiver to give you the medication, or find a nurse who is available for home visits.

If you suffer from fatigue: You may miss doses because you are asleep, or may feel too tired to give yourself the medication. There are some things that you can do to help:

  • Schedule medication taking (especially injections) for the times of day when you are most awake. Set an alarm at the scheduled dosing time to make sure you are awake, or ask a friend or loved one to remind you to take your medication.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see whether one or more of your medications could be making your fatigue worse.
  • If you are taking several medications or using medications several times per day, ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medication schedule can be simplified. Often it is possible to reduce the number of doses per day by switching to combination medications or drugs that are given less frequently.

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