Atlanta, GA,
12:16 PM

Understanding Multiple Sclerosis: A Conversation with Jacqueline Rosenthal, M.D.

During MS Awareness Month, we sat down with Jacqueline Rosenthal, M.D., multiple sclerosis (MS) specialist, to gain insight into the realities of living with the disease.

Jacqueline Rosenthal, M.D.

The Complexity of MS

MS is notoriously complex, affecting each individual differently. Dr. Rosenthal describes the disease's impact:

"It affects the brain but also the entire central nervous system the brain, the spinal cord, or the optic nerves. Anywhere along that pathway is where MS can affect you as a patient."


Individual Journeys

Everyone's journey with MS is unique, and Dr. Rosenthal stresses the importance of an individualized approach:

"It affects everyone differently. People are terrified because they assume the worst. They think, ‘I’ll need a wheelchair, or I can't carry out these plans I had, or my life is over.’ I encourage patients to know that life is not over. It may look different moving forward, but it's far from over. Life is still entirely possible. Just because they're diagnosed with MS doesn't mean they have to be fully characterized by the diagnosis."

Activity and Engagement

Physical and community engagement are critical aspects of managing MS. Dr. Rosenthal advises her patients to stay active:

"Remaining physically active is crucial, and while that may look a little different compared to someone who doesn't have MS based on whether there are disabilities or not, staying active is staying healthy. And we want people with MS to stay involved in the community. Being actively engaged with other people is really important."

Mental Health Considerations

An MS diagnosis can have significant mental health implications. Dr. Rosenthal elaborates:

"I encourage my patients to avoid social isolation and pay more attention to their mood and mental health because dealing with certain adjustments of the MS diagnosis can be a lot to deal with.”

Navigating Healthcare

Creating a supportive healthcare environment is critical. Dr. Rosenthal highlights:

"Find a healthcare team that you gel with because it will be a lifelong journey. Make sure you can ask all your questions and express your concerns. You want to feel like you're being listened to and respected and that you can understand how the disease impacts you as a patient."

Recognizing Symptoms

Dr. Rosenthal emphasizes the importance of recognizing early symptoms and seeking medical attention:

"A lot of people are diagnosed late. We want to shorten the window between disease onset and diagnosis as best we can. So, any unexplainable neurologic symptoms need to be thoroughly examined. Vision changes and loss of function in an arm or leg where it's not working well, weak, or not coordinating well, are often the first symptoms."

The Future of MS Treatment

Dr. Rosenthal remains optimistic about advances in the treatment of MS:

“There's no cure for MS at this time. MS is so complicated in terms of what leads to disease manifestation. There are many different things [researchers are looking into] that could lead to new treatment options, and it does look promising.”

Viral Links to MS

Recent research has focused on the Epstein-Barr virus's role in MS. Dr. Rosenthal discusses this emerging field:

“Researchers are looking at the role Epstein-Barr plays in the development of MS and the role it plays in the chronic manifestations of MS. From a prevention standpoint, they are investigating whether preventing people from getting that virus, could help prevent a subset of people from ever developing MS.”


Interview by Dominique McPhearson

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.