Why MS Can Affect Your Breathing — and What You Can Do About It
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH Medically Reviewed by Jason Paul Chua, MD, PhD
Multiple sclerosis can negatively affect multiple processes that control or modulate breathing. Here’s what you can do to improve your respiratory function.
Among the many possible complications of multiple sclerosis (MS) is a reduction in your ability to exhale fully and to cough effectively enough to clear secretions or food from your airway, says Anthony Reder, MD, a multiple sclerosis specialist and professor of neurology at the University of Chicago. A serious consequence of these changes is a higher risk of respiratory infections like pneumonia. Changes in breathing function can also cause fatigue, as you work harder to breathe and supply your body with the oxygen it needs.
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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.
Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.
There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.