Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative condition that affects the function of nerves in the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. MS attacks the protective shield around nerve fibers, allowing damage to the nerves.
Signals from the brain can be slowed or blocked when passing through damaged sections of nerves. This causes MS symptoms including muscles weakness, difficulty walking, talking, or eating, dizziness, fatigue, tremors, and changes in vision.
Currently there is no cure for MS. Treatments are available to help control symptoms and maintain quality of life. Goals for MS treatment include:
• Modifying the course of the disease
• Treating flare-ups or exacerbations
• Managing symptoms
• Improving general function and safety
In general, treatment for multiple sclerosis begins as soon as the disease is diagnosed. Research has shown that starting treatment early can yield a more positive result than treatment that is delayed.
Disease-modifying drugs (DMDs) are often recommended as early as the first MS attack. These drugs are used to try to slow down the progression of the disease.
There are a variety of DMDs available which are targeted at controlling specific symptoms. Your doctor will determine which drugs are most appropriate based on symptoms and response to the medications.
Flare-ups or exacerbations are generally accompanied by inflammation. Most exacerbations last between a few days and several weeks or months. Treatment for MS flare-ups often includes corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
MS symptoms are typically treated on a case by case basis because symptoms can vary significantly from person to person. Common treatments include:
• Targeted medications selected to relieve specific symptoms
• Self-care techniques which may include exercise, balanced diet, getting enough rest, reducing stress, and cooling body temperature using cool baths to relieve symptoms