Treating Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, normally involves taking several approaches at once. As no two individual’s experience with MS is the same, the best combination of treatments will be very patient specific. Your health professionals will speak with you in detail about the medications you can try and they may be keen for you to start taking them soon after your diagnosis. There are treatments that help to control the symptoms and treatments to reduce the impact, severity and recurrence of relapses.
It is generally thought that the sooner you are able to start treatment the more effective it is likely to be, however if you feel you need more information or time before you start treatment your healthcare professionals will support you through this as a short delay is unlikely to be critical.
Disease Modifying Therapies, or DMTs aim to control MS activity by reducing the number of relapses, reducing the severity of relapses, and helping to preserve brain health. In the UK there are a wide range of drugs available with each drug offering a different combination of risks and benefits.
It may take between 3-6 months from starting DMT treatment for it to be fully effective, so the benefits of this treatment may not be seen immediately. DMTs are not able to repair any existing nerve damage caused by MS therefore existing symptoms can not be reversed so may still be experienced.
All DMTs have potential side effects, some people may not experience any at all, others might find that effects may reduce over time as the body adapts to the drug and some might feel that the side effects persist and would prefer to stop or try alternative treatments. Your healthcare team will continually monitor you and how you are coping and will be there to step in should there be any cause for concern. Some people feel that the risk of developing side effects means that this would prefer not to take DMTs whilst others may feel that the benefits for them outweigh the risks.
Previously DMTs have been only used in people with the relapsing type of MS, however there is growing evidence that one particular DMT might help some people in the early stages of progressive MS.
It can be frustrating if the treatment path you choose isn’t right or doesn’t work as well as hoped for, but there are lots of other ways that people with MS have found that help them to manage their condition, such as through diet and exercise as well as non-drug therapies, like physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and psychological therapy. These therapies have proved successful in many and may help to delay the impact of MS and protect your brain health.