“We really want to put a stop to MS and halt it in its tracks so that people can go about their everyday lives.”
Here’s the bad news first: Researchers still don’t fully know what causes multiple sclerosis (MS). This means they don’t yet know how to prevent MS, either. The good news? So much progress has been made in the range and successes of treatments we have available to help manage MS over the past few decades.
MS is a more rare autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. The immune system attacks the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells. Starting treatment early is helpful to reduce this damage.
What are the treatment goals of MS?
1. Prevent MS from getting worse so people can live more normal lives
“So one of the main goals of treating MS is to really keep MS from getting worse,” says Asaff Harel, MD, Neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health. “It's a preventative goal and to keep people from getting worse and staying stable throughout their lives.”
2. Reduce lesions and avoid serious side effects
Lesions refer to the damaged areas of the central nervous system. An MS flare can lead to new lesions. The more lesions you have, the more symptoms you will likely experience.
“There is a term in the research world of what's called NEDA, or ‘no evidence of disease activity,’” says Dr. Harel. “That's no evidence of relapses: no new lesions and no worsening of overall neurological function.”
3. Find a treatment option unique to your situation
Today, there are many medication options to treat MS. This is great news because it means doctors can tailor the treatment to the individual. If one medication doesn’t work or causes severe side effects, there’s likely another option that could be a better fit.
“[MS] can get worse over time. We really want to put a stop to MS and halt it in its tracks so that people can go about their everyday lives,” says Dr. Harel. “That's an attainable goal these days.”
4. How have MS treatments and prognoses changed over time?
MS is a chronic illness without a cure — but the treatments to manage the condition have improved leaps and bounds. MS used to take such an incredible toll on the body’s mobility, usually confining people to a wheelchair or needing other devices for assistance. This was because treatment options were limited and less advanced.
Today, it’s less common for people with MS to progress to this point. This is thanks to the wide range of new medication options. Treatment options include different injections, intravenous options, and oral medications.
5. How do you stay optimistic during MS treatment?
It’s easier than ever to find a medication option that helps you meet your multiple sclerosis treatment goals. This may continue to improve as new treatment options are always on the horizon.
One challenge could be managing your own expectations to limit disappointment and appreciate the small wins you do see. Get creative when it comes to managing your symptoms.
Look to these MS warriors living with multiple sclerosis for more inspiration, as well as these community resources:
- National Institutes of Health. (2019). Managing Multiple Sclerosis
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2020). Multiple Sclerosis: Hope Through Research
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society. (2016). At Home with MS: Adapting Your Environment
- FamilyDoctor.org (2019). Multiple Sclerosis