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A Deep Look Into How Selma Blair’s MS Diagnosis Has Totally Changed Her Life

Prevention logo Prevention 2/26/2019 Alisa Hrustic, Leah Groth
a person on a laptop keyboard: Selma Blair revealed she has multiple sclerosis back in August. Here is how MS symptoms have impacted every aspect of her life since then-and what the future may hold. © John Shearer - Getty Images Selma Blair revealed she has multiple sclerosis back in August. Here is how MS symptoms have impacted every aspect of her life since then-and what the future may hold.
  • Selma Blair revealed she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a central nervous system disease, in August 2018 and has been open about her experience with the condition.
  • Blair has experienced classic symptoms of MS, such as difficulty walking, speech problems, and mood changes.
  • In interviews with Good Morning America and Vanity Fair, Blair is speaking about her experience with MS to inspire hope in others.

If there’s one thing totally evident about Selma Blair, it’s this: She’s a fighter. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis following an MRI back in August 2018, the 46-year-old actress has been incredibly open about her battle with the debilitating disease.

Last weekend, Blair made her first red carpet appearance at the Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty, where she relied on a customized patent leather cane for support (and yes, she looked absolutely stunning). During a recent interview on Good Morning America, Blair spoke candidly about her experience with MS on camera for the first time and revealed how difficult it was for doctors to accurately diagnose her condition.

“I had tears,” she said. “They weren’t tears of panic, they were tears of knowing that I now had to give in to a body that had loss of control and there was some relief in that.”

And in an interview with Vanity Fair for the March 2019 issue, Blair shares that her MS diagnosis has only made her stronger and given her a new voice. “There’s no tragedy for me,” she said. “I’m happy, and if I can help anyone be more comfortable in their skin, it’s more than I’ve ever done before.”

But where exactly did Blair’s journey with MS begin? Here, we take a comprehensive look at her symptoms, how the disease has impacted her life, and what her future may look like.

When did Selma Blair first reveal her multiple sclerosis diagnosis?

In October 2018, Blair revealed that she was diagnosed with MS in a heartbreaking Instagram post. She detailed all of the scary symptoms she was dealing with, and explained how she finally figured out what was going on with her body after 15 years of living with the condition.

“I have #multiplesclerosis. I am in an exacerbation,” she wrote. “I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps. But we are doing it. And I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Selma Blair (@selmablair) on Oct 20, 2018 at 11:23am PDT

Blair says she was diagnosed with MS on the night of August 16 and had been leaning on her pals-including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze, and Jaime King-for their support. She was inspired to share her story after a “profound” moment of “deepest gratitude,” when the costumer on the set of her upcoming Netflix show Another Life lovingly helped her get dressed. She hoped that her admission would help “give some hope to others” and even herself.

“You can’t get help unless you ask. It can be overwhelming in the beginning. You want to sleep. You always want to sleep. So I don’t have answers. You see, I want to sleep,” she writes. “But I am a forthcoming person and I want my life to be full somehow. I want to play with my son again. I want to walk down the street and ride my horse. I have MS and I am ok. But if you see me, dropping crap all over the street, feel free to help me pick it up. It takes a whole day for me alone. Thank you and may we all know good days amongst the challenges.”

When Blair’s symptoms became too much to bear, her friend, actress Elizabeth Berkley, urged her to make an appointment with her brother, neurologist Jason A. Berkley, DO. Dr. Berkley found a lesion after doing an MRI. “I have had symptoms for years but was never taken seriously until I fell down in front of him trying to sort out what I thought was a pinched nerve,” she continued. “I have probably had this incurable disease for 15 years at least. And I am relieved to at least know.”

So what is multiple sclerosis, exactly?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), Roumen Balabanov, MD, a neurologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, previously explained to Prevention.

When you have MS, your immune system spurs inflammation that damages myelin, or fatty substances that act as insulation around your nerve fibers, according to the National MS Society. This causes communication problems within your central nervous system, leading to disabling symptoms like difficulty walking, pain, and speech problems.

Researchers aren’t quite sure what causes MS, but they believe environmental triggers-say, like a virus-could be potential culprits for people who already have a genetic link to the disease. Low vitamin D levels, smoking, and obesity during childhood or adolescence have also been associated with an increased risk of MS.

An estimated 2.3 million people worldwide are living with MS, and while it impacts both sexes, women are three times more likely to be impacted than men. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and can often live with it for years, like Blair, before receiving an MS diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of MS-and how have they affected Selma Blair?

While there are specific symptoms for MS, they can come and go, which can often delay a diagnosis for years.

Weakness and fatigue

According to the National MS Society, the majority of people (about 80 percent) experience unexplained muscle weakness, usually in the legs. Some also experience numbness or tingling as well as chronic fatigue, which appears suddenly and lasts for a few weeks before improving.

While it’s not entirely clear what kind of sensation Blair felt when she thought she had a pinched nerve, it’s very possible that she was experiencing some kind of numbness or tingling. Numbness of the face, body, arms, or legs is one of the most common symptoms of MS, and it’s also one of the first telltale signs of the disease.

Difficulty walking

MS can definitely impact your ability to walk, due to muscle tightness, balance problems, fatigue, numbness in the feat, and overall weakness. In December 2018, Blair posted an Instagram photo of herself using a cane for the first time. She followed up with a second photo, where she even interacted with her fans in the comments.

Since then, she has continued to rely on using a cane for support-which she used to make a beautiful statement at the Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty. The patent leather cane was customized with her monogram and a pink diamond. Blair was so overwhelmed by the support that she couldn’t hold back a few tears during her appearance.

a woman wearing a dress and standing in front of a building: selma blair oscars after party © GEORGE PIMENTEL - Getty Images selma blair oscars after party

Speech problems

Because your speech patterns are controlled by your brain, MS can lead to slurring, abnormally long pauses, disrupted speech patterns, and nasal speech (causing one to sound like they have a cold). On Good Morning America, Blair revealed she was dealing with spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder that impacts the voice muscles in a person’s larynx (aka, the voice box), according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Dysphonia is not one of the classic presentations we talk about in MS,” Amit Sachdev, MD, associate medical director for the department of neurology and ophthalmology at Michigan State University told Prevention. It’s fairly rare, he explains, but it’s still “within the range of things MS could cause.”

Blair said she was in the midst of an MS flare, meaning her symptoms are worse than usual. “So my speech, I have spasmodic dysphonia right now,” she said. “It is interesting to be here to say this is what my particular case looks like right now.”

Vision problems

Deteriorating eyesight can also be a symptom, as MS causes inflammation in the optic nerve. You should see a doctor if you experience double vision or if a part of your field of vision has become blurry.

Mood changes

Due to the disabling nature of MS, emotional changes are very common. People diagnosed with the disease may deal with heavy stress, depression, irritability, and generalized anxiety. In January, Blair posted a photo on Instagram revealing she was dealing with just that. “There is a truth with neurodegenerative brain disease. It is uncomfortable. It is a stadium of uncontrollable anxiety at times. Going out, being sociable holds a heavy price. My brain is on fire,” she wrote.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Selma Blair (@selmablair) on Jan 13, 2019 at 9:57pm PST

In her Good Morning America interview, Blair delved into the emotional toll further. “Ever since my son was born, I was in an MS flare-up and didn’t know, and I was giving it everything to seem normal,” she said. “And I was self-medicating when he wasn’t with me. I was drinking. I was in pain. I wasn’t always drinking, but there were times when I couldn’t take it.”

Pain and muscle spasms

Serious leg pain and muscle stiffness and spasms are also classic symptoms of MS, and are more prevalent in women than men.

Bladder problems

Frequent urination, strong urges to urinate, and incontinence are other symptoms of MS.

Brain fog

Cognitive problems aren’t uncommon symptoms of MS, as it impacts the nervous system. Symptoms can include forgetfulness, trouble staying organizing or a decreased attention span.

How is MS treated, and is there a cure?

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should call your primary physician immediately. They will likely refer you to a neurologist, who may ask you to undergo an eye exam, a neurological exam, or maybe even a spinal tap. Be patient, as MS isn’t easy to diagnose and may take some time. Always pay attention to your symptoms and seek a second opinion.

There is currently no cure for MS, but the disease can be managed with medications to reduce the severity of relapses, exacerbation of symptoms, and damage to the body, according to the National MS Society. Overall, these FDA-approved medications are designed to slow the progression of the disease. Vocal, physical, and emotional rehabilitation may also be recommended to improve quality of life.

While MS can lead to paralysis, two-thirds of people diagnosed with it will retain mobility, but may be physically impaired due to weakness or balance problems.

Still, Blair fights on-and holds on to hope. “I am in the thick of it but I hope to give some hope to others. And even to myself. You can’t get help unless you ask.”

Video: Fox News’ Janice Dean on Telling Her Sons About MS (Inside Edition)

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