Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS is a neurological and  a potentially disabling disease of the brain and central nervous system disease. It damages the myelin sheath, the material that surrounds and protects your nerve cells. This damage slows down or blocks messages between your brain and your body, leading to the symptoms of MS. They can include

  • Visual disturbances

  • Muscle weakness

  • Trouble with coordination and balance

  • Sensations such as numbness, prickling, or "pins and needles"

  • Thinking and memory problems

No one knows what causes MS. It may be an autoimmune disease, which happens when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Multiple sclerosis affects women more than men. It often begins between the ages of 20 and 40. Usually, the disease is mild, but some people lose the ability to write, speak, or walk.There is no single test for MS. Doctors use a medical history, physical exam, neurological exam, MRI, and other tests to diagnose it. There is no cure for MS, but medicines may slow it down and help control symptoms. Physical and occupational therapy may also help.

 

Treatment

Currently there is no cure for MS. Many individuals do well with no therapy at all, especially since many medications have serious side effects and some carry significant risks.  However, three forms of beta interferon (Avonex, Betaseron, and Rebif) have now been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of relapsing-remitting MS.  The FDA has also approved ocrelizumab (brand name Ocrevus) to treat adults with relapsing forms of MS and primary progressive MS. Beta interferon has been shown to reduce the number of exacerbations and may slow the progression of physical disability. When attacks do occur, they tend to be shorter and less severe.  The FDA also has approved a synthetic form of myelin basic protein, called copolymer I (Copaxone), for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS. Copolymer I has few side effects, and studies indicate that the agent can reduce the relapse rate by almost one third.  Other FDA approved drugs to treat relapsing forms of MS in adults include teriflunomide and dimethyl fumarate.  An immunosuppressant treatment,Novantrone (mitoxantrone), is approved by the FDA for the treatment of advanced or chronic MS.  The FDA has also approved dalfampridine (Ampyra) to improve walking in individuals with MS.

Suggestions for the Patients

Many people with MS use some form of complementary or alternative medicine. These therapies come from many disciplines, cultures, and traditions and encompass techniques as different as acupuncture, aromatherapy, ayurvedic medicine, touch and energy therapies, physical movement disciplines such as yoga and tai chi, herbal supplements, and biofeedback.

Because of the risk of interactions between alternative and more conventional therapies, people with MS should discuss all the therapies they are using with their doctor, especially herbal supplements. Although herbal supplements are considered "natural," they have biologically-active ingredients that could have harmful effects on their own or interact harmfully with other medications.

Exercise regularly and  eat a well-balanced diet. Limit saturated fat, added sugars and sodium. Emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables, low and fat-free dairy products, and whole grains to reduce risk of heart disease, control constipation, and maintain a healthy body weight.

Drink fluids. Drink plenty of non-caffeinated, low sugar fluids every day to maintain general health, health of the urinary system, and to lessen constipation.

Consume adequate calcium and have adequate level vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels can cause numerous symptoms and may play a role in the MS disease process. Ask your clinician about blood testing and appropriate supplementation.

Stop smoking (or don’t start) to reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease. Those who begin smoking before age 17 have a 2.7 fold increased risk of developing MS later in life. Smoking may also accelerate MS disease progression.