There are many treatments available for MS, many of which can help decrease the frequency and severity of relapses, improve physical function, and ease symptoms caused by the condition.
While there’s no cure for multiple sclerosis (MS), there are many treatments available. These treatments mainly focus on slowing down the progression of the disease and managing symptoms.
Different people can have different types of MS, and disease progression and symptoms range greatly from person to person. For both reasons, each person’s treatment plan will be different.
Read on to learn about the types of MS treatments available.
Disease-modifying medications can reduce the frequency and severity of MS episodes, or relapses. They also can reduce the number and size of lesions (damage to nerve fibers) and reduce symptoms.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has currently approved several drugs for modifying MS. They’re available as:
- oral treatments
The following medications are given as injections:
- interferon beta-1a (Avonex, Rebif)
- interferon beta-1b (Betaseron, Extavia)
- glatiramer acetate (Copaxone, generic versions such as Glatopa)
- pegylated interferon beta-1a (Plegridy)
- ofatumumab (Kesimpta)
In 2018, the manufacturers of the injection daclizumab (Zinbryta)
The following therapies must be given by infusion at a licensed medical facility:
These treatments are pills taken by mouth:
- teriflunomide (Aubagio)
- fingolimod (Gilenya)
- dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera and generic equivalent)
- cladribine (Mavenclad)
- siponimod (Mayzent)
- ponesimod (Ponvory)
The following treatments are capsules taken by mouth:
Stem cells have shown some promise in treating the neural damage that MS causes.
Research on stem cells in MS has included test-tube studies, animal research, and some human studies. There are also a variety of ways that stem cells are used in the treatment of MS, such as bone marrow transplants.
The process by which stem cells work to do this is not fully understood, but studies are ongoing to determine more about the curative abilities of stem cell therapy.
While there isn’t any research supporting one specific diet for MS, eating a generally nutrient-rich, balanced diet is recommended.
Staying active is critical to addressing MS symptoms and maintaining quality of life. Exercise helps:
- improve muscle strength
- increase cardiovascular health
- improve mood
- improve cognitive function
A good way to start your MS exercise routine is to try basic stretches while you’re sitting or in bed. When you feel comfortable with those exercises, add more demanding exercises such as:
- resistance training
- aerobic exercise
As you get stronger and more comfortable exercising, you can modify and build on your exercise program.
Keep in mind that spending time with people you enjoy can help improve your mood. Exercising with others might be a good way to stay social.
Additionally, be sure to talk to a doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.
Not only can they provide recommendations for which activities may be safe and beneficial, but they can also offer suggestions for how to modify or adapt exercise routines as needed.
People with MS often experience fatigue. And when you’re tired, you may not feel like exercising.
But the less exercise you get, the more tired you may feel. That’s another reason why exercise, including physical therapy (PT), is so important.
It’s important to know that exercise needs to be carefully tailored for people with MS. Things such as keeping session times short and increasing exercise over time are important factors.
If you’ve experienced a change in coordination, strength, or energy levels during a relapse, you may want to consider PT.
The goal of PT during relapse is to prevent muscle contractions and atrophy, or loss of your muscle tissue, due to immobility.
In cases where a relapse causes severe weakness, passive muscle movements may also be necessary. This involves the physical therapist moving your arms, legs, or other parts of the body if you’re unable to move them yourself.
A professional PT program
Ending a relapse as quickly as possible benefits both your body and the mind. That’s where relapse treatments come in.
Inflammation is a key feature of MS relapses. It can lead to many other symptoms of MS, such as:
Corticosteroids used to treat MS include methylprednisolone (intravenous) and prednisone.
Other treatments that are sometimes used during a relapse may include:
- ACTH (H.P. Acthar Gel): ACTH is an injection into your muscle or under your skin. It works by prompting the adrenal cortex gland to secrete the hormones cortisol, corticosterone, and aldosterone. These hormones help reduce the level of inflammation in your body.
- Plasmapheresis: This process involves removing whole blood from your body and filtering it to remove antibodies that may be attacking your nervous system. The “cleansed” blood is then returned to you through a transfusion.
- Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG): This treatment is an injection that helps modify abnormal inflammation mediated by the immune system. However, evidence of its benefits for MS relapses has been inconsistent in
While the drugs listed above help treat MS, a range of medications are available to treat the different physical symptoms that MS can cause.
Drugs for pain and other muscle problems
- muscle spasms
Relieving those symptoms can also help with depression, which can occur with MS.
- baclofen (Lioresal)
- cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
- diazepam (Valium)
- tizanidine (Zanaflex)
Drugs for fatigue
Fatigue is a common symptom for people with MS.
Drugs used to treat fatigue include modafinil (Provigil). They also include amantadine hydrochloride (Gocovri) and amphetamine-dextroamphetamine (Adderall), which is used off-label for this purpose. Off-label use is when a drug that’s approved for one purpose
Drugs for bladder and bowel problems
There are more than a dozen prescription medications for bladder problems, such as incontinence, related to MS. Talk with your doctor about which drugs might be best for you.
Over-the-counter stool softeners are often recommended to help ease constipation and bowel symptoms associated with MS. If you have questions about these products, consider consulting your doctor or pharmacist.
Though MS treatments can be helpful in managing the condition, they
- increased risk of infections
- flu-like symptoms related to infections
Coping with MS can present challenges, but treatment can make a big difference in how you feel, both physically and emotionally.
Work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that addresses your medical issues and can help improve your physical symptoms and emotional outlook.