Managing the cognitive impacts of MS

Managing the cognitive impacts of MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex and challenging neurological condition that affects the central nervous system, causing a wide range of symptoms. While physical manifestations are often at the forefront, the cognitive impacts of MS are equally significant but can sometimes be overlooked. "Many individuals with MS face cognitive challenges such as short-term memory deficit, problems with abstract conceptualization, reduced attention span, and issues processing information," says Diana N. Andino, MD, Neurology at ARC Four Points in Austin. "But there are strategies available for managing cognitive changes and minimizing their effects on daily life."

Cognitive impacts of multiple sclerosis:

  • Short-term memory deficit: One of the most common cognitive issues in MS is short-term memory deficit. Individuals may have trouble recalling recent events, names, or details. This can lead to frustration and anxiety as daily tasks become more challenging. Recognizing and addressing these memory lapses is essential to maintain a sense of normalcy and control.
  • Problems with abstract conceptualization: MS can affect abstract thinking, making it challenging to grasp complex ideas or concepts. This cognitive impairment may hinder problem-solving abilities and impact professional or academic performance. Seeking support from a neurologist or cognitive specialist can provide tailored strategies to overcome these challenges.
  • Reduced attention span: Individuals with MS often face a reduced attention span, making it difficult to concentrate on tasks for extended periods. This can impact productivity and increase stress levels. Implementing strategies such as breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable parts and incorporating regular breaks can help improve focus.
  • Issues processing information: Processing information becomes slower and more challenging for individuals with MS, leading to what is commonly known as "brain fog." This cognitive cloudiness can disrupt daily functioning. It is essential to employ coping mechanisms such as prioritizing tasks, maintaining a structured routine, and communicating openly with colleagues and loved ones about cognitive challenges.

Strategies for minimizing cognitive effects of MS:

  • Consult a specialist: Seeking guidance from a neurologist or cognitive specialist is crucial for understanding the specific cognitive impacts of MS. These professionals can conduct assessments and tailor strategies to address individual needs, fostering better cognitive function.
  • Stress management: Stress is a known exacerbator of cognitive decline in MS. Implementing stress management techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, or yoga, can positively impact brain health and overall well-being. Collaborating with a neurologist to identify personalized stress-reduction strategies is essential.
  • Memory strategies: Adopting memory-enhancing strategies can significantly improve daily functioning. These may include using external memory aids like calendars, notes, or smartphone apps, as well as practicing mental exercises to stimulate memory retention.
  • Structured routine: Establishing a structured routine can provide a sense of predictability and control, helping individuals with MS better manage cognitive challenges. Consistent sleep patterns, regular exercise, and a balanced diet contribute to overall brain health.
  • Cognitive therapy: A set of therapeutic approaches and interventions aimed at addressing and managing cognitive difficulties that may arise because of MS. Cognitive therapy focuses on improving cognitive function and helping individuals develop strategies to cope with cognitive challenges. Understanding the cognitive impacts of MS is crucial for those navigating the complexities of this condition. "By acknowledging challenges, individuals with MS can proactively work towards managing cognitive impairment," says Dr. Andino. "With the right strategies, support from doctors, and a focus on overall brain health, it is possible to minimize the impact of cognitive symptoms and enhance the quality of life for those living with MS."

About Dr. Andino

Dr. Andino was recently recognized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as a Partner in MS Care for her dedication to providing optimal care and support to people living with MS. She is currently accepting new patients, ages 18 and older, at ARC Four Points in Austin. Learn more about ARC Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Treatment with Dr. Andino.

Make an appointment today with or without a referral

Make an appointment online with Dr. Andino using ARC MyChart or by calling ARC Four Points in Austin at 737-247-7200. Your ARC primary care physician can also give you a referral to Dr. Andino.

Don't miss this!

Dr. Andino is leading the ARC team for the Austin Walk MS 2024 on Saturday, April 13. Join or donate today!

Tags: Multiple Sclerosis, MS, Cognitive Dysfunction