Multiple Sclerosis Treatment
Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis? Learn More About Your Treatment Options
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis (MS). All the available treatment modalities essentially focus on managing the symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease. The doctor will assess your medical history and the severity of your condition before prescribing medications and other therapies. Patients with very mild symptoms may not require any treatment.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system of the patient starts attacking the myelin sheath that covers and protects the nerve cells in the body. This can impact the way your nerves, spinal cord and brain communicate with each other. Multiple sclerosis can manifest as:
- Numbness in one or more limbs
- Muscle weakness
- Thinking and memory problems
- Partial or complete loss of vision along with pain during eye movement
- Double vision
- Tingling in certain parts of the body
- Unsteady gait
- Slurred speech
- Urinary and/or bladder incontinence
During the initial stages of the disease, most patients experience symptoms for a certain period of time followed by remission that may last for few weeks, months or even years. The condition will eventually progress, and the periods of remission will reduce significantly. Some patients may have a gradual onset of the disease and steady progression without any relapses.
Treatment for Symptoms
There are two aspects to MS management and treatment. If you are suffering from serious symptoms or a relapse, your doctor may prescribe:
- Corticosteroids – These medications reduce the inflammation of the nerves and thereby, provide immediate relief. This category of drugs includes oral medications, such as prednisone, and intravenous injections, such as prednisolone.
- Plasma exchange – Your doctor will recommend plasma exchange only if your symptoms do not respond to corticosteroids. During the process, your blood cells are separated from the plasma and mixed with albumin solution. They are then placed back into your body.
Managing the Progression
The second aspect MS treatment involves therapies and medications that modify the duration of the relapse and remission phases of the disease. While it may not possible to slow the progression significantly, these treatments help to a certain extent.
- MS medications – Your physician may prescribe an intra-muscular beta-interferon injection to prolong remission. Glatiramer acetate is an intra-dermal injection that suppresses the immune attack on the myelin sheath. Other medications, including Dimethyl fumarate and Fingolimod, also help reduce the frequency of relapses. However, most MS medications are associated with serious complications ranging from skin irritation to liver damage. Your physician will assess the risks and the severity of the condition before choosing a drug. Talk to your doctor immediately if you notice any unwanted side effects or complications.
- Other Medications – Apart from specific drugs that have a direct impact on MS, many patients also require medications to manage pain, fatigue, depression, sexual dysfunction, and bladder incontinence among other things.
- Physical therapy – This treatment modality involves exercises that help stretch and strengthen your muscles. While physical therapy will not affect relapse or remission, it may help cope with gait and mobility issues that crop up in the later stages of MS.
- Alternative medicine – Complimentary therapies such as yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, and diet will promote overall health and well-being. However, there are no scientific studies that confirm their efficacy. Oral cannabis extract may also help improve muscle spasticity, as per the American Academy of Neurology.
A diagnosis of MS can be confusing and overwhelming. Close to 300,000 individuals across North America suffer from this condition. Most patients are diagnosed between 21 and 40 years of age, although the condition may appear in children under 3 years of age and in seniors over 65 years of age. Researchers across the globe are spending millions of dollars to find a cure for the disease. Until then, MS treatment will be limited to improving the patient’s quality of life.