There are many reasons to consider changing your MS treatments. These five steps will help you assess your needs and make the transition an easier one.

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.

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 having trouble with the injection process.

Medications for MS include disease-modifying therapies that prevent relapse and progression, as well as symptomatic treatments that ease the effects of MS, such as muscle spasms, bladder problems, or pain.

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.

You might want to switch treatments because you’re not sure if the medication you’re taking is effective. Talk with your doctor about the goals of each medication and what you should look for to determine whether it’s working.

Don’t stop taking your medication or change your dose without talking with your doctor first.

Disease-modifying MS 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.

If you are taking a medication to control specific symptoms of MS, sometimes it’s not the medication that needs changing but the dose. Ask your doctor whether your current dose should be adjusted. 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. Disease-modifying medications for MS can take between 6–12 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.

Whatever your reason, you should be clear with your doctor why you are asking for a change. 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.

Changes to your daily life can sometimes affect how different medications are absorbed or metabolized, which affects their benefits and side effects. 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 health issues and not necessarily a sign that your disease-modifying MS 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.

Increased lesions on an MRI scan and changes in your 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.

Your doctor can compare your current tests with previous tests to see if there are changes in certain results that could be affecting your health. For example, if you have developed mild anemia (low red blood cells), that could be affecting your energy level separately from your MS.

But if you have developed problems with coordination, then it could be your MS. And some changes, such as worsening vision, could be due to MS or other problems like cataracts or glaucoma, and more detailed testing can get to the bottom of it.

The acronym S.E.A.R.C.H. acts as a guide for choosing the best MS treatment based on the following factors:

  • Safety
  • Effectiveness
  • Access
  • Risks
  • Convenience
  • 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 whether 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.