Common treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) embraces a range of medications and therapies to combat the symptoms of this unpredictable, often debilitating disease.
Although there is currently no cure for MS, the symptoms of the neurological condition – including fatigue, cognitive problems, and impairment of sight and mobility – can be managed. Multiple sclerosis develops when your immune system goes askew and attacks healthy parts of your body. MS isn’t considered a terminal illness, but patients have it for life and it can cause serious disability.
The NHS says life expectancy in general declines slightly for MS patients. However, it points out that many live as long as anyone else.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
The most common type of multiple sclerosis is relapsing/remitting MS (RRMS). This means the patient temporarily gets better with time but then the symptoms flare up again. Multiple sclerosis can also take the form of:
- Primary Progressive MS (PPMS) - This refers to occasional relapses in patients whose MS has been progressive from the start.
- Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS) - Many people initially diagnosed with relapsing/remitting MS find that their condition changes. They get fewer relapses or none at all but their disability intensifies.
If you have a relapsing form of MS, disease modifying drugs (DMDs) are available to reduce the number of setbacks and their impact. However, people with all types of multiple sclerosis can get treatment for the specific symptoms they experience.
Medications can help to control several issues associated with multiple sclerosis. These drugs include:
- Muscle relaxants to help ease muscle spasms or stiffness, particularly in the legs.
- Medications such as amantadine to reduce fatigue.
- Medicines like fampridine to increase mobility.
Other medications may also be prescribed for MS-related problems such as:
- Sexual dysfunction.
Sight problems associated with multiple sclerosis often improve on their own, but in severe cases steroids can be prescribed to help speed up recovery. If you experience double vision, you may need help from an eye specialist.
Everyone's MS is Different
The NHS says more than 100,000 people in the UK have MS, most being diagnosed in their 20s or 30s. The disease is more common among women. Treating multiple sclerosis usually entails several simultaneous approaches. Everyone’s MS varies, so the most effective combination of treatments will be different for each individual.
MS treatment may take some time to work effectively, perhaps several weeks or even a few months. In some instances, dosages of medicine may need to be increased gradually until the optimum level is reached.
Not all MS treatments work for all patients, and it may be a case of trying several different options to find which ones work best for you. According to the NHS, common treatments for multiple sclerosis are delivered by a team of different healthcare specialists, including:
- A neurologist to treat issues with the nervous system.
- A physiotherapist.
- A speech therapist.
- A specialist MS nurse, who'll usually be the main point of contact.
Cognitive and Emotional Problems
If you suffer from MS and experience issues with memory and thinking, or emotional outbursts such as crying for no apparent reason, a clinical psychologist can evaluate the extent of your problems and suggest ways to help control them. If you often feel anxious, you may be prescribed antidepressants.
A sex therapist or relationship counsellor may be able help both men and women with MS who experience a decreased interest in sex.
Lifestyle and Home Therapies
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis may be relieved by alternating plenty of rest with regular mild to moderate exercise to improve muscle tone, co-ordination and balance. Exercise typically recommended for MS patients includes:
MS symptoms can be aggravated if your body temperature rises, so it’s advisable to avoid exposure to heat. A balanced diet is also a good idea if you have MS, and some research suggests foods rich in vitamin D – such as fatty fish – may be particularly beneficial.
MS-related stress may be alleviated by deep breathing, massage, yoga, or Tai chi.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Many people with MS consider complementary and alternative therapies. When used alongside mainstream treatments for multiple sclerosis, these therapies are generally considered beneficial in improving overall mental and physical well-being.
However, some alternative medicines may react badly with prescription drugs, so talk with a health professional first. Nevertheless, according to the MS Trust, mindfulness and meditation can help to counter stress, anxiety and depression, while massage, aromatherapy and reflexology may also be helpful.VAT Exempt Prices Only
Coping with Multiple Sclerosis
Living with a chronic illness like MS is challenging. While common treatments for multiple sclerosis can go a long way towards maintaining your quality of life, you can help yourself by:
- Maintaining everyday activities as best you can.
- Staying connected with family and friends.
- Continuing to pursue hobbies.
- Contacting a support group.
- Discussing your concerns with your doctor.
You can learn about this condition by reading our in-depth MS Guide. Alternatively, take a look at the 20 most common medical conditions which affect older people.
Personal Alarm Information
If you, or a loved one, have MS it may be a good idea to invest in a personal alarm system. Our affordable service makes it easy to find help if you require urgent medical attention due to illness or a fall. You simply press the red help button on your wrist or around your neck and our 24/7 Response Team respond, assist, and send help to your home.
Multiple sclerosis is also a condition which qualifies for VAT Exemption, so you wouldn't pay any VAT when you buy an alarm. For further information please speak to one of our friendly advisers on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on 14th March 2022 to reflect current information.