One day Serene Ismail woke up with no vision in her right eye.
Just a few days into her married life, and traveling on a honeymoon, she thought it was caused by the eyelash extensions she wore at her wedding.
“I thought it would go away soon, but my mother insisted on getting my eye checked,” Serene said.
“When we returned back home I went to see the optometrist, and was referred to Westmead emergency department, because he suspected it was a neurological issue.”
After a few blood tests, an MRI and a lumbar puncture, Serene was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She was 21 years old.
“I had never heard of it before, so I started reading about this condition,” she said.
“Suddenly, all the weird symptoms that I had been having earlier made sense. Since high school I had occasional vertigo, hearing or taste loss, and I was getting tired on days I was not very active.”
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic condition involving the central nervous system. With MS, the immune system attacks the protective layer around nerve fibers.
First signs of MS usually appear at a young age and it is more common in women.
Serene was referred to Westmead Hospital’s Multiple Sclerosis clinic, where she was offered a treatment plan that would help to manage her symptoms.
“I usually take everything on the chin, and I learned to accept this condition,” Serene said.
“I got pregnant just before starting the treatment, so I had to postpone it until after the delivery of my daughter.”
Serene had to make a few adjustments to her life, and quitting the gym was one of the most upsetting for her.
“I used to be a fitness fanatic, but I had to stop it when MS relapses started happening. I do miss my gym days,” she said.
“If you are having some unexplained symptoms, see a neurologist.
“Thinking forward about your life, it’s good to be in the know about your condition, as it will progress more.”
The head of Westmead’s MS clinic Professor Steve Vucic said it was best to get diagnosed and start receiving treatment as soon as possible.
“With the modern technologies and MRI, one clinical event is enough to diagnose MS,” Prof Vucic said.
“Currently there are 15 different treatment options that include injectables, tablets and infusions.
“We have a multidisciplinary setting at the clinic that allows us to monitor how our patients respond to the offered treatment and make necessary adjustments.”
Westmead Hospital’s MS clinic is one of the centres participating in a new international clinical trial. The study will run for two years and will test the new treatment for patients with the most problematic kind of MS, primary progressive MS.
“It is an exciting opportunity for us. We are proud that our clinic is recognised as one of the centres around the world to participate in this trial,” Prof Vucic said.
“To anyone who is having any unexplained neurological symptoms, please come forward and see a neurologist.”
“The treatments available today are very effective. Patients with MS can have a fairly normal and active life.”
To learn more about multiple sclerosis, click here.