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Knowing Your Treatment Options When Faced with MS

by Shannon, February 18, 2019

From the moment a physician relays the news that a patient has multiple sclerosis, a variety of emotions begin to surface. You – or a loved one – may be wondering how life will continue, what type of symptoms you may face and most importantly, your treatment options.

Here, at Care Indeed, we not only provide high-quality in-home and hourly care for clients coping with diseases such as MS, we also provide resources you need to navigate your journey with this illness.

That’s why the 3rd article in our MS series focuses on the importance of knowing your treatment options. [Articles 1 and 2

 

Navigating the Diagnosis

Before treatment is even discussed, you will undergo a series of tests to confirm that you do, indeed, have multiple sclerosis. Physicians often conduct a medical examination and discuss your medical history. In addition, the following tests may be necessary:

  • Blood tests – These will help rule out any other conditions that have symptoms similar to MS.
  • MRI – An MRI helps to reveal any lesions on your spinal cord or brain.
  • Spinal Tap – In some cases, physicians may order a spinal tap, otherwise known as a lumbar puncture, which involves removing a small sample of fluid from your spine canal to analyze.
  • Evoked Potential Tests – These tests record electrical signals often produced by your nervous system when you are responding to stimuli. The tests help physicians measure how information is traveling throughout your nerve pathways.

While there is not one specific test used for a confirmed diagnosis of MS, many physicians use a variety of tests to rule out other diseases or illnesses.

 

Understanding MS Medications

Unfortunately, a cure for MS has yet to be discovered, but many patients lead a fruitful life while coping with the disease. The primary change is that you – or a loved one – may need to take medication, work with a physician closely and make lifestyle changes to help minimize MS symptoms.

Treatment options vary, but disease-modifying drugs are fairly common for people with multiple sclerosis. Medications cater to the type of MS you have been diagnosed with at the time. [Article #1 in MS series re: symptoms]


Medications help to prevent any flare-ups and, hopefully, slow down the disease’s progression. Primarily, MS medications are designed to curb the immune system to prevent an attack on the myelin that surrounds your nerves.

Some of the medications for MS may need to be administered via an injection into a muscle or under your skin. A few of the types of medications for MS include, but are not limited to:

  • Glatiramer – This MS medication works to protect your nerves so that myelin is not damaged.
  • Beta interferons – As one of the most common types of drugs to treat MS, beta interferons help ease flare-ups and the severity of the disease.

Pill-form medications are also commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis, such as teriflunomide, fingolimod and dimethyl fumarate. According to WebMD, some patients report side effects that may, or may not, include:

  • Nausea
  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal liver tests

 

Treating the Symptoms of MS

Since there is not a cure for multiple sclerosis yet, treatment plans often focus around symptom control. For instance, if you are on medication that is not adequately controlling flare-ups, physicians may temporarily prescribe a high dose of steroids to minimize the symptoms of MS.

In addition, symptom control treatment options may include:

  • Muscle relaxants for muscle stiffness and spasms
  • Oxybutynin for bladder control challenges
  • Antidepressants for anxiety and depression
  • Amantadine for excessive fatigue
  • Physical therapy to help you learn how to use an assistive device, walker or cane

 

Utilizing Lifestyle Changes to Treat and Manage MS

Some patients opt to manage MS primarily with lifestyle changes, while others combine medication and lifestyle changes for enhanced results.

The National MS Society recommends trying these lifestyle changes to help minimize MS symptoms:

  • Manage Stress: Stress often makes MS symptoms worsen over time. You can help manage your stress by relaxing more, meditating, journaling or reading.
  • Exercise More: Although movement and coordination are often challenging when you – or a loved one – has MS, when you walk or exercise more, it can help strengthen your muscles and build stronger bones. In addition, exercise can also reduce bouts of anxiety and depression.
  • Change Your Diet – What you eat can significantly impact the severity of your symptoms. Although a multiple sclerosis diet does not exist, the  U.S. Department of Agriculture  recommends choosing foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats.
  • Prioritize Sleep – A consistent sleep schedule can leave you feeling much more energized throughout the day, especially if you – or a loved one – has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Make sure that your bedroom is dark and cool to maximize your sleep quality.

 

Consider Alternative Treatments

There are many gimmicks and fads on the market claiming to “cure” MS, but it is important to understand that you could be misled. However, some physicians recommend supplements to help you manage MS symptoms.

The Mayo Clinic asserts that the following alternative treatments are worth a try:

  • Acupuncture – This procedure involves an acupuncturist sliding thin needles into your body to help change your energy flow. For MS patients, acupuncture could help minimize symptoms such as tingling, numbness, fatigue and pain.
  • Vitamin D Supplements – It may be worth asking your physician to check your vitamin D levels. Low levels of vitamin D can cause your energy levels to drop.

 

How Can I Find the Support I Need?

Whether you are newly diagnosed, in the midst of treatment or coping with daily living with multiple sclerosis, know that you are not alone. Both local and national agencies and organizations host support groups and offer resources that are valuable for patients and their loved ones.

You can also lean on the professional and compassionate caregivers from Care Indeed. Support and care are essential as you cope with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Care Indeed professionals are highly trained to assist with mobility, hygiene, transportation and companionship regardless of your condition or disease. We offer local resources for our clients and their families to help you understand the level of care you need. In addition, our professional caregivers are available to help you with daily tasks to ease the transition when MS progresses.

Life with any type of multiple sclerosis is challenging and learning how to accept the challenge is the first step in improving your overall quality of life. While you may struggle with the changes as a patient, caregiver or family member, the support you need is only a click away. 

Care Indeed is committed to providing you the support and in-home caregivers who understand your challenges and daily struggles at work and home. Learn more about how to get the support you need while living with Multiple Sclerosis today.