A woman has shared her first symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), the same health condition Christina Applegate opened up about earlier this month. Fellow actor Selma Blair also has the condition and has spoken of her experience.
Lara Kingsman, 54, woke up one day with a "buzzing" and "electric tingling" sensation all over her body, as well as "numb patches", in April 2017.
At first, the mum-of-three thought she'd just trapped a nerve while jogging, but a GP thankfully referred her to a neurologist.
The buzzing sensation she describes got so bad she couldn't sleep and so she wisely took herself to Addenbrookes A&E hospital, in her hometown of Cambridge.
The school teacher was initially diagnosed with what is called transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord.
But after two MIR scans and a lumbar puncture, where a thin needle is inserted between the bones in your lower spine, Kingsman was given the life-changing news she had MS, a month later in May 2017.
She has since been learning to live with the condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of possible symptoms like problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance. She wants to raise awareness of the illness that affects 110,000 people in the UK, and many more globally.
Applegate, who stars as Jen Harding in the Netflix dark comedy Dead To Me, first announced she was diagnosed with MS in August 2021. Earlier this month, she spoke more about the difficulties she had while filming the final season of the Netflix show.
Harding told the New York Times how she wished she had "paid attention" more to the signs of her condition earlier, including tingling and numbness.
Similarly, Kingsman first experienced small symptoms that then progressed. "It was a massive shock. I was 47 at the time and quite fit," she recalls of her diagnosis. "I ran three times a week and was a zumba instructor. It hits you like a tonne of bricks. I didn’t know anything about MS.
"I was fortunate enough to be assigned an MS nurse at Cambridge Addenbrookes hospital who was brilliant," adds Kingsman. "When we’re diagnosed with MS we believe we’ll be in a wheelchair within ten minutes but there are different kinds.
"I have 'relapsing remitting' MS which means you have relapses where all of your symptoms get worse at once but you can then recover. Relapsing remitting could carry on for one or thirty years – you don’t know when the relapse is going to happen."
She still experiences buzzing, which is a similar sensation to pins and needles, which travels through her body and in her palms.
"The way I describe it in my hands is when you were little and you jumped off a wall and landed on your hands," she explains. "It’s a bit uncomfortable but it’s always there."
What is multiple sclerosis (MS) and what treatments are there?
MS is a lifelong condition that can sometimes cause serious disability, although it can occasionally be mild, according to the NHS.
For many people their first symptoms might be optic neuritis, temporary loss of vision in one eye, or foot drop, when you lose feeling in your foot and can trip over things.
Another symptom Kingsman has is intense fatigue, so much so that she understandably has had to cut her full-time working hours as a secondary school music teacher down, to just six hours a week.
She takes Tecfidera – a disease modifying drug – twice a day which protects the fatty tissue that coat the nerve cells, as well as a nerve-pain killer as she has chronic pain in her bladder (another symptom being problems with controlling the bladder).
The average life expectancy for people with MS is roughly five to 10 years lower than average, but this gap seems to be getting smaller all the time, with more advancements in treatment.
"A lot of people are affected when things start kicking in – it's quite scary," explains Kingsman. "You don't know how it will affect speech. I had to go through a grieving process as you lose your sense of identity when you can't work. You grieve the life you assumed you would have," she says.
And in terms of what a relapse entails, she adds, "When I have a relapse, I find it hard to remember words. "It’s more than menopausal brain fog; sometimes I just have to stay in bed because I can’t think of things or words.
"I'm reliably unreliable. I'm rubbish in the evenings. I have to rest and pace myself and I can't clutter my diary."
Watch: Selma Blair and Christina Applegate support each other as they battle with multiple sclerosis
As well as the physical side of her condition, she is impacted mentally too.
"Depression is a real issue for anyone with an autoimmune disease," she explains. "People think of MS and just think of your arms and legs not working but there are so many other things you can’t see," adds Kingsman.
"We need more research and there is a postcode lottery of people who get resources such as MS nurses. Resources are limited, charities such as MS Trust and the NHS are a lifeline."
Additional reporting SWNS.