Christina Applegate explains why with MS 'it's never a good day': What is multiple sclerosis?

Christina Applegate, who lives with MS. (Getty Images)
Christina Applegate was diagnosed with MS in 2021. (Getty Images)

Christina Applegate has opened up on exactly how living with multiple sclerosis (MS) affects her life, from being fearful of getting in the shower to not being able to go down the stairs.

The Dead to Me star, 51, originally shared news of her diagnosis in August 2021 via Twitter, but has since spoken about her struggles with the autoimmune condition.

"With the disease of MS, it's never a good day. You just have little shitty days," Applegate told Vanity Fair in a new interview.

"People are like, 'Well, why don’t you take more showers?' Well, because getting in the shower is frightening. You can fall, you can slip, your legs can buckle."

MS can cause muscle spasms, weakness and mobility problems.

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"There are just certain things that people take for granted in their lives that I took for granted. Going down the stairs, carrying things—you can’t do that anymore. It fucking sucks," she adds.

Applegate says that she can still drive her car short distances and bring food up to her child, 12-year-old daughter Sadie Grace, but never down.

Explaining that MS can affect your balance, she adds, "Gravity can just pull you down and take everything down with you.

"We have this little thing at the top of the stairs that we call 'purgatory.' So if anyone’s done with anything upstairs, we put it in purgatory so one of my able friends can bring it downstairs."

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 26: (L-R) Christina Applegate and Sadie Grace LeNoble attend the 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on February 26, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Christina Applegate and daughter Sadie Grace. (Getty Images)

Since her diagnosis, Applegate prefers to be around a tight-knit group of people.

"I actually don’t want to be around a lot of people because I'm immunocompromised. I have my friend who lives here during the week and she helps me take care of Sadie. And then on the weekend I have a caretaker," she says.

"I also don’t want a lot of stimulation of the nervous system because it can be a little bit too much for me. I like to keep it as quiet and as mellow as possible."

Commenting on her symptoms, she explains, "It’s exhausting. Imagine just being in a crowd of people and how loud that is. It’s like 5,000 times louder for anyone who has lesions on their brains."

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Applegate previously made a poignant appearance at the 2023 SAG Awards (Screen Actors Guild Awards) arriving at the event with a cane that read: “FU MS”.

On Sunday 26 February, the star, 51, attended the 29th annual awards hand-in-hand with Sadie Grace.

For the occasion, the mother-daughter duo matched, with Applegate wearing a black floor-length velvet tuxedo dress with oversized satin lapels, while her daughter also wore a black suit, which she paired with a black beret.

The Bad Moms actor completed her look with a black cane, which she accessorised with white stickers, including one with the message to MS.

It was the star's first red carpet appearance since hinting that she could be retiring from acting due to her ongoing condition.

Applegate arrived at the event with her daughter and a cane which read: 'FU MS'. (Getty Images)
Applegate arrived at the 2023 SAG Awards with Sadie Grace and a cane that read: 'FU MS'. (Getty Images)

Earlier in February, she told the Los Angeles Times that it would likely be her "last awards show as an actor probably" due to her diagnosis with MS, adding "so it's kind of a big deal".

She also explained that she'll likely be scaling back her acting, saying: "Right now, I couldn’t imagine getting up at 5am and spending 12 to 14 hours on a set; I don’t have that in me at this moment."

Last year, Applegate discussed how her life had been impacted since her diagnosis, explaining she had seen a 40lb weight gain and now struggles to walk without the support of a cane.

The NHS says the lifelong condition MS can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.

Applegate previously revealed how production on the final season of Dead To Me paused for five months following her diagnosis and she went on to share some of the impacts her illness caused when filming resumed.

"This is the first time anyone's going to see me the way I am," she told The New York Times. "I put on 40 pounds; I can't walk without a cane. I want people to know that I am very aware of all of that."

The Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead star also revealed how she wished she had “paid attention” more to the signs she might have the condition in the years leading up to her official diagnosis, including a tingling and numbness in her extremities.

Watch: Christina Applegate hints at retirement from acting

What is multiple sclerosis?

MS is a lifelong autoimmune condition that affects the brain and the spinal cord, causing a wide range of symptoms that vary from person to person.

Depending on the severity, MS can be debilitating, leading to problems with vision, balance and movement.

The MS Society estimates there are over 130,000 people with MS in the UK, and that nearly 7,000 people are newly diagnosed each year.

While it is most commonly diagnosed in people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, it can develop at any age and is more common in women than men.

As well as Christina Applegate, other celebrities living with the condition include Jack Osbourne, diagnosed in 2012, and Selma Blair, diagnosed in 2018.

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Symptoms of MS

The symptoms of MS vary widely for each person and can affect any part of the body.

The main symptoms include:

  • fatigue

  • difficulty walking

  • vision problems, such as blurred vision

  • problems controlling the bladder

  • numbness or tingling in different parts of the body

  • muscle stiffness and spasms

  • problems with balance and co-ordination

  • problems with thinking, learning and planning

If you're worried you might have signs of MS, you should see your GP.

Remember, however, that your symptoms could have many other possible causes, so they're not necessarily a sign of MS.

If your doctor suspects you could have MS, you'll be referred to a specialist in conditions of the nervous system (a neurologist).

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Horizontal MS of doctor reassuring patient and delivering good news.
Horizontal MS of doctor reassuring patient and delivering good news.

Treatment of MS

While there is no cure for the condition, there is help out there. MS can be treated and managed with various treatments, which may include:

  • treating relapses with short courses of steroid medicine to speed up recovery

  • specific treatments for individual MS symptoms

  • treatment to reduce the number of relapses using medicines called disease-modifying therapies

For more help and information

There are two main MS charities in the UK, which are on hand to offer support and advice.

You can reach the MS Society on 0808 800 800 and MS Trust on 0800 032 38 39.

There's also, an online community for younger people affected by MS.

For more information on the condition, see the NHS website.