Philadelphia Treatment Guide
What It Is
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease characterized by inflammation of the central nervous system (CNS), which is comprised of the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. The inflammation causes the destruction of the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells, which in turn disrupts and distorts the impulses sent within the CNS. The disease’s symptoms result from failed transmission of messages. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue called sclerosis.
Very little is known about the cause of the disease although most scientists believe MS is an autoimmune disease. The disease is not directly inherited, but one’s risk significantly increases if a close relative suffers from the disease. MS is also two to three times more common in women and affects Caucasians of Northern European descent living in Northern latitudes more frequently. The disease is most commonly diagnosed between ages 20 to 50, but it can strike at anytime.
Fatigue, numbness, bladder and bowel dysfunction, vision impairment, dizziness and vertigo, sexual dysfunction, depression, and spasticity (stiffness or tightness of the muscles that interferes with gait and movement, and sometimes speech)
*Diagnosis proves difficult as symptoms range from very mild to severe and vary greatly from patient to patient
As there is presently no cure for MS, the objective of treatment is to manage symptoms and facilitate a better quality of life.
Exercising and diet, assistive devices, and rehabilitation programs including speech, occupational, and physical therapy are the primary treatment options
FDA-approved disease-modifying agents include Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, Novantrone, Rebif, and Tysabri. Studies have shown the medications to reduce disability progression, lessen the occurrence and severity of exacerbations, and decrease the number and size of lesions in the brain. Most agents are administered by means of injection.
Exacerbations are treated with high-dose corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. Some steroid medications, such as prednisone, are given orally, while others are administered intravenously, such as methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol), dexamethasone (Decadron), and ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone).
For managing the wide array of symptoms MS can produce, medications such as Dulcolax for constipation or Effexor for combating depression are available.
Braces, canes, grips, handles, Velcro, etc. can be used to make tasks like bathing, dressing, and cooking much easier.
Living With Multiple Sclerosis
Philadelphia’s Top Doctors and hospitals are here to help. You’ll also find local chapters of national organizations that offer a variety of programs and services, including helplines, healthcare grants, and support groups.