Treatments are tailored to patients' specific needs. MS is a complex disease that requires expertise from many different healthcare professionals. All of those experts contribute in a unique way. Managing MS and the symptoms may help improve quality of life and increase comfort.
Modifying the Disease
Medications are used to modify the disease course, treat relapses and manage symptoms. The following may be options for those with relapsing forms of MS.
- Injectable medications
- Oral medications
- Infused medications
A relapse, or "flare up" is called an exacerbation. An exacerbation of MS can cause new symptoms or the worsening of old symptoms. Exacerbations are unique to every individual. There can be only one symptom while others may cause two or more symptoms. They can be very mild, or severe enough to interfere with a person’s ability to function at home and at work.
Exacerbations are caused by inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS). The inflammation damages the myelin which slows or disrupts the transmission of nerve impulses. This causes the symptoms of MS. A true exacerbation, must last at least 24 hours and be separated from the previous attack by at least 30 days. Most exacerbations last from a few days to several weeks or even months.
Not all exacerbations require treatment. Mild symptoms (such as numbness, pins-and-needle sensation, or bursts of fatigue) that don’t significantly impact a person’s activities can generally be left to get better on their own.
Severe exacerbations (involving loss of vision, severe weakness or poor balance, for example) which interfere with a person’s mobility, safety or overall ability to function, may require a short course of high-dose corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation and bring the relapse to an end more quickly.
The most common treatment regimens are:
- Solu-Medrol® (methylprednisolone) — A three- to five-day course of intravenous medication
- Deltasone® (prednisone) — A high-dose oral medication.
Other treatment options:
- H.P. Acthar Gel (ACTH) — An option for those who are unable to cope with the side effects of high-dose corticosteroids, have been treated unsuccessfully with corticosteroids, do not have access to intravenous therapy, or have trouble receiving medication intravenously because of difficulty accessing the veins.
- Plasmapheresis — Plasma exchange may be considered for the 10 percent of very severe exacerbations that do not respond adequately to the standard steroid treatment.
In addition to managing the disease, we manage the symptoms that can affect all areas of your body. These symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling
- Vision problems
- Muscle weakness and stiffness (spasticity)
- Walking (gait) difficulties
- Balance issues
- Coordination difficulties
- Bowel and bladder problems
- Speech problems: Slurred speech
- Cognivite changes: Memory problems, decreased concentration, slower thinking
- Emotional changes
- Sexual dysfunction