While multiple sclerosis has no cure, many treatments are available that can slow the disease’s progression, control flare-ups, and manage symptoms. Some treatments may work well for you, but others may not. If you’re not satisfied with your current treatment, you might want to try something else.
There are many reasons to consider changing treatments. Your current medication might have side effects that bother you, or it may no longer seem to be as effective as it was. You might be having challenges taking your medication, such as missing doses or struggling with the injection process.
A variety of treatment options are available for MS. If you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, here are five steps you can take to change it.
1. Assess the effectiveness of your current treatment
You might want to switch treatments because you’re not sure if the medication you’re taking is effective. Ask your doctor how you can tell if your medication is effective. Don’t stop taking your medication or change your dose without talking to your doctor first.
Medication can be working properly even if your symptoms seem to be the same. This is because the medication is preventing new symptoms from developing as it controls inflammation. It may be that your current symptoms simply aren’t reversible, and your treatment is aimed instead at preventing your condition from progressing.
Sometimes it’s not the medication that needs changing but the dose. Ask your doctor if your current dose should be increased. Also make sure that you’ve been taking your medication as prescribed.
If you still think that your current treatment isn’t working, make sure that you’ve given it enough time. Medication for MS can take between 6 to 12 months to take effect. If you’ve been on your current treatment for less time, your doctor may recommend that you wait before considering a change.
2. Be specific about what you want to change
Whatever your reason for making a change, you should be clear with your doctor about what’s not working. Maybe the medication you’re on makes you moody or requires regular liver function tests. Perhaps even though you’ve received training to self-inject your medication, you might still dread the task and want to switch to an oral alternative. Specific feedback about your current treatment can help your doctor recommend another option that’s better for you.
3. Make note of lifestyle changes
Changes to your daily life can sometimes affect your treatment. Tell your doctor about anything that’s different such as your diet, activity level, or sleeping patterns.
Dietary factors like salt, animal fat, sugar, low fiber, red meat, and fried food are linked to increased inflammation that can make MS symptoms worse. If you think you’re having a relapse, it might be because of a dietary factor and not because your medication has stopped working.
Update your doctor about any lifestyle changes that could be affecting your treatment so that together you can make an informed decision.
4. Ask for current testing
Increased lesions on an MRI scan and poorer outcomes from a neurologic exam are two signs that a treatment change might be in order. Ask your doctor if you can have current testing done to see if you should switch medications.
The acronym S.E.A.R.C.H. acts as a guide for choosing the best MS treatment based on the following factors:
- Health outcomes
The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America provides S.E.A.R.C.H. materials to help you determine the best MS treatment for you. Consider each of these factors and discuss them with your doctor.
There are multiple treatment options available for MS. If you want to change your current treatment, be clear about why so that your doctor can help you choose another that’s a better fit for you.
Sometimes treatments are working as intended even if you don’t notice any changes. Check with your doctor to see if this is true in your case before switching medication.
As you consider your options, continue taking your current medication, and don’t change your dose until you speak with your doctor.