Why You Should Keep A Multiple Sclerosis Symptom Log

Keeping a detailed log of your symptoms can improve your care

Multiple Sclerosis, Consultation. Credit: BSIP / Contributor / Getty Images

Life moves fast for everyone, and if you have MS, it can be easy to lose track of how you're feeling as you're juggling the demands of everyday life. This is why it's a great idea to keep a record of your sclerosis (MS) symptoms. You probably won't be seeing your neurologist very frequently – a few times a year, if that, or when you have a relapse — and it's crucial to be able to give an accurate report of how you've been doing since your last visit.

Without that, it's more difficult for your doctor to assess whether your symptoms indicate a possible relapse or are “pseudoexacerbations” from previous relapses.

Careful symptom records can also help you evaluate how well you are responding to certain disease-modifying treatments and medications prescribed specifically to manage symptoms, as well as help you parse out which of your symptoms may be side effects. By recording your symptoms, you can track how your MS changes on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. You can also note how other factors such as stress, sleep, eating patterns, and activity level influence how you feel. This will help you start to understand how certain stressors or triggers in your life may relate to your MS symptoms. And keeping a daily log won't take you more than five minutes a day. 

Know the Symptoms

Before you can track your individual MS symptoms, you have to have a good understanding of the full range of symptoms that can appear with MS.

These symptoms vary widely from cognitive symptoms such as memory trouble to physical symptoms such as tingling. Read about MS symptoms and know what to look for. As you read about each symptom, take a moment to picture in your mind what having that symptom would be like. That will help you remember.

Get a Notebook

Find a nice notebook, or one that you'll look forward to writing in. Divide the page into 9 columns in the following manner. In the top column, write the following from left to right: 

Symptom
Time/Date
Duration
Severity
Stress level
Energy level
Physical activity
Food
Other

In the symptom columns, you will simply write which MS symptom you are experiencing. In the time/date column, record both the time of day and the date. For the stress, energy and physical activity columns, rate each of those at the time you noted the symptom on a scale of 1 (a little) to 10 (a whole lot). In food, indicate anything unusual about what you have been eating. Use the other column for observations you might have.

Do a Daily Assessment

For the log to work, you should use it every day – even on days when you have no MS symptoms. If you try to remember and add details later, you may forget. Have a certain time of day that you do an assessment. Right after dinner is good, or while getting ready for bed works also works well.

Find a time when you have a couple of minutes each day that you can spend working on your log. You'll be surprised at how this simple strategy helps you mark progress as well as identify patterns, both of which are very empowering. 

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