The goal of MS treatment is to modify the course of disease, treat attacks, and manage symptoms. A comprehensive treatment plan that consists of medications and therapies may be the best way to achieve this.

The following are available treatments that are commonly prescribed to newly diagnosed patients.

Modifying the Disease Course

Beta Interferons

Beta interferons reduce the frequency and severity of MS attacks. They are given by injection, either by your doctor or by yourself. Beta interferons are available in the United States under brand names Avonex, Betaseron, Extavia, Plegridy, and Rebif.

Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera)

Sold under the brand name Tecifidera, this oral medication is taken twice a day. It works to reduce the frequency of relapses. Your doctor will want to do a complete blood count test every six months because it can cause low white cell counts. Having a low level of white blood cells can increase your chances of getting an infection. If you do develop an infection, your doctor will have you stop treatment until the infection has resolved.

Fingolimod (Gilenya)

This medication, sold under the brand name Gilenya, comes in capsule form and is taken once a day. It works by preventing certain cells from entering the central nervous system (CNS), and reducing inflammation and damage to the nerve cells. Because it has been found to slow heart rate in some people, your heart rate will be monitored for up to six hours after your first dose.

Glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)

Sold under the name Copaxone, this drug is injected under the skin and works by stopping your immune system from attacking the protective layer of the CNS. Just last year the FDA approved a new, more effective dosing schedule consisting of three 40 mg/mL injections per week.

Managing Attacks

Most MS attacks will subside by themselves and won’t require any extra treatment. If you experience a severe relapse, triggering vision loss or poor balance, your doctor may prescribe a course of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation quickly.

Corticosteroids are available in various forms that can be taken by mouth or intravenously. Prednisone is the most commonly prescribed corticosteroid. H.P. Acthar Gel (corticotropin) is an injection that can also be effective in stopping an MS attack.

Managing Symptoms

There are numerous options available for managing the symptoms associated with MS.

For fatigue, your doctor may prescribe:

  • amantadine (generic)
  • modafinil (Provigil) 
  • fluoxetine (Prozac) 
  • methylphenidate (Ritalin)

For pain:

  • amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • carbamazepine (Tegetrol)
  • gabapentin (Nuerontin)
  • nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor)
  • phenytoin (Dilantin)

For depression:

  • bupropion (Wellbutrin)
  • duloxetine hydrochloride (Cymbalta)
  • fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • paroxetine (Paxil)
  • sertraline (Zoloft)
  • venlafaxine (Effexor)

For spasticity:

  • baclofen (Gablofen, Lioresal)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • dantrolene (Dantrium)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • tizanidine (Zanaflex)

Other symptoms that your doctor may prescribe medications for include:

  • dizziness and vertigo
  • sexual dysfunction
  • tremors
  • emotional changes
  • bladder and bowel issues
  • vision problems

Therapies and Lifestyle Changes

Along with medication, your doctor is likely to recommend different therapies and lifestyle changes to help you manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. These include:

  • Physical and occupational therapies can help you improve and maintain your physical functions at work and home and allow you to remain active and independent by teaching you how to adapt to your changing needs.
  • Speaking to a psychologist or psychiatrist can help you cope with your new diagnosis and the emotional changes that are common with MS, including depression. A psychiatrist can also prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to help you.
  • A social worker can help you access key resources, such as support groups and financial services.
  • A nutritionist can help you choose foods to increase your energy levels and manage your weight. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends eating the same low-fat, high-fiber diet that’s recommended by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.
  • Vitamin D has been shown to improve calcium absorption for stronger bones and help strengthen the immune system. Some studies have even found that vitamin D may lessen the frequency and severity of MS symptoms.